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ISSUE 120 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/29/2006

The man inside the big, furry head: An interview with long-time mascot Ole the Lion

By David Henke
Variety Editor


Friday, September 29, 2006

Erik Fosheim ‘05 and Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) have a couple of things in common. Fosheim may not fight hardened criminals or have a secret hideout like his DC Comics counterpart, but both he and Batman have alteregos, cool costumes and important roles in their respective communities.

For five years Fosheim has been the man behind the mask of Ole the Lion, the St. Olaf school mascot. He makes roughly 20 appearances a year at athletic events, public relations activities and alumni conferences.

Fosheim volunteered to take over the role of Ole the Lion in the fall of 2001, when he was a first-year at St. Olaf. He graduated with majors in English and American Studies, and is now enrolled in the English Language Learner Program in the Education Department.

“I was looking for something spirit–related so that I could get involved with the athletic teams,” Fosheim said. He spoke to some friends about becoming the basketball mascot, and e-mailed the basketball head coach, Dan Kosmoski.

Kosmoski was enthusiastic and Fosheim began making frequent appearances at St. Olaf basketball games dressed up as Ole the Lion. Fosheim never received any formal training for the position. “It was all a trial by fire,” he said.

Fosheim doesn't get paid for his work as Ole the Lion, which has allowed him to take a somewhat philanthropic approach to his job: The satisfaction he gets from his work is derived from making other people happy.

“The thing you learn as a mascot is that there are a lot of great things happening; there are at least 50 positives that happen with every negative,” Fosheim said. “You really start to see the overall good of people as a mascot, and as an Ole, that's really exciting to experience.”

There are some downsides to volunteering as a college mascot. According to Fosheim, wearing the insulated costume for a prolonged period of time takes a physical toll on its occupant.

“I've actually sweated through the entire costume. I'm from Texas, and this is still one of the hottest things I've ever done,” Fosheim acknowledged. Sometimes, heat is the least of Fosheim's worries; at basketball and football games he has been tackled several times by fans of an opposing team.

“A lot of the negative situations with fans could've been avoided if I had asked questions and communicated beforehand,” Fosheim said. “You just have to know your event. The last thing you want to do is start anything that could become negative.”

There are a few limits to what Fosheim can do and how he must behave as Ole the Lion, but he generally lets common sense dictate his behavior. “There are things I cannot do as a mascot, that I cannot do as a fan – you're on your best behavior,” he said. “You don't want to do anything that could harm the St. Olaf image.”

Over his five years as Ole the Lion, Fosheim has noticed a distinct change in the role of the school mascot. Fosheim still attends a number of athletic competitions throughout the year, but provoking Macalester and St. Johns fans and leading cheers at games has slowly taken a backseat to public relations-related activities. Fosheim believes that administrative decisions and the overall attitude of the student body have prompted the change, but noted that most Division One school mascots, like Goldy the Gopher at the University of Minnesota, also fulfill similar functions.

No matter how Fosheim’s role changes in the upcoming months and years, he's vowed to stay on as Ole the Lion for the foreseeable future-or at least until he has tenure. He does, however, have a little advice for any potential successors to his position as Ole the Lion: “Don't go into it thinking this has one set goal; be open to everything you may encounter, because the role is constantly changing.”





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