Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Victor, the Not-So-Friendly Bull

Last Friday we took the kids to the UB (University at Buffalo) men's basketball home opener. It was a thrill, more for me than for the children. Basketball season is the light of my dark, cold, dreary, Buffalo winters. And last winter was a very, very long winter indeed. Basketball season came and went, and we were only able to go to about three games. Elijah had developed a fear of the mascot.

This wasn't just an "I don't like him" fear. This was a "trembling and crying in his car seat as soon as we approached campus" fear, and I just wasn't willing to put my child through that kind of torturous anxiety no matter how badly I wanted to be at those games.

See, my four years at UB, Victor E. Bull was a happy bull.

I guess people found him to be a bit cheesy. After all, a giant blue bull with a goofy looking grin isn't the most intimidating mascot in NCAA history. But he was more for the kids than anything. He provided a very family friendly atmosphere at the games. Well, except for maybe that one time that he and his partner, Victoria, attacked the Rutgers mascot at the football game...but he was asking for it.

Anyway, sometime between 2005 when I graduated and left Buffalo and 2009 when we moved our family back to Buffalo, Victor underwent a serious makeover.

Meet angry Victor:
Now, do you see why my 4-year old son trembles in his presence?

So last Friday, my parents were visiting. I felt that between my husband and me and Mimi and Pop Pop, Elijah would feel safe, and all would be well, but as soon as we told Elijah where we were going, he protested by taking forever to put his socks and shoes on. That's a major protest if you know my son. He doesn't refuse to do things. He's not that defiant, and if we're going anywhere he's usually so excited that he's the first with this socks and shoes on.

Shockingly, we made it into the gym right on time. We ignored our seating and sat as far away as possible so as to avoid any of Victor's runs though the lower bleachers. But like being stalked by a predator in the jungle, Elijah wouldn't turn his back on Victor, and rarely took his eyes off of him. From where we sat, Victor was the size of my thumb, but Elijah wasn't going to let that fool him.

Close to half-time, Elijah seemed to have forgotten about Victor briefly when he noticed the bounce house down in the corner of the gym. Thinking that this was a great opportunity for Elijah to see how much fun could be had at a basketball game, I jumped at the opportunity to walk the 20 million stairs down there with him. One itty bitty little problem. As we got closer, we noticed, or rather Elijah noticed, that the bounce house corner was the very corner where Victor was standing to cheer on the Bulls. Like a scared little monkey, he had quickly climbed his way up to my hip, and had his arms and legs clenched around me so tightly I could have let go and he wouldn't have budged. He fussed and began to scream that he wanted to go back, but we'd already climbed down 19 million of the 20 million steps, so I pressed forward, explaining to him that Victor wouldn't touch him, and that I would carry him straight to the bounce house. Against his protests we made it safely to the bounce house, and thankfully, Victor walked to the other end of the court during the time-out. Elijah waited patiently in line for his turn to jump. I tried to stand with him while craning my neck to still watch what I could of the game. I was grateful when his turn came up to get inside, because then I knew right where he was, and I could focus a bit more on the game, but no sooner did he climb in, than I heard him screaming. I turned around to see him standing, frozen in the corner of the bounce house. I followed his eyes past me to Victor, who had made his return back to this corner of the gym. Maybe it's just me, but it's my opinion that if they were going to create him to please the students, which they obviously did, he should spend most of his time helping the cheering of the student section on the opposite side of the gym from the bounce house, not hanging around small, terrified children. I quickly plucked Elijah out of the bounce house (no way he was getting out of there on his own), and carried my clinging little monkey back up the 20 million steps to the nose bleed section. Did I mention he weighs about 45 pounds?

Later that night Pop Pop tried to talk to Elijah about Victor. We've all had this conversation with him over the past year and a half. He understands what a costume is, and that there is a person in there but liking Victor has to be on his terms.

"Did you have fun at the game, Elijah?" Pop Pop asked him.
"Yeah, but I don't like Victor."
"Well, Victor is nice. Someday you'll like him."
"But he makes this face,"  Elijah said.

"I'd like him better if he made this face."

So there you have it, Victor. Those are his terms. Smiling on the inside just isn't going to cut it.


  1. Did you tell him the makeover is to scare the other team so we win?
    Also, I spent a couple days volunteering in the old mascot costume for orientation when I was in undergrad, so maybe you can refer to me & tell him it's just a big, dorky girl inside :)

  2. Hahaha, sweet boy. I thought we'd made strides this summer with "Victor isn't scary, he's our friend!" Elijah was all over that for awhile. Hopefully someday. :)

    Oh, and I maintain that the Rutgers mascot attacked us. Or maybe not, because now that I've typed that I seem to remember him getting hit so hard that he flew backwards and lost a shoe. But yes, he deserved it. A bunch of us in the section near him made sure he knew that by openly mocking him the whole game. Gotta keep entertained at a UB football game somehow!