Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoya Spirit: Unveiling the Man Behind the Mask

To most acquaintances, Carter Lavin (SFS ’10) is an unsuspecting Hoya: a Science, Technology and International Affairs major, plenty of D.C. internships and membership in student clubs like H*yas for Choice. But although he keeps a low profile, he is one of most visible symbols of Georgetown University: the Jack the Bulldog mascot.

Being one of the school’s mascots certainly isn’t easy – running around in a portable sauna for a few hours at a basketball game – and it certainly doesn’t make you a celebrity. But for Lavin, this is a labor of love. He sat down with The Hoya to reflect on his four years in the dog suit.

How did you come to be a Georgetown mascot?

Well, I was the mascot at my high school for my junior and senior years, [in which] I was a bulldog. And when I was applying to schools, how to be a mascot was the thing I looked into. So when I came in to talk to my future dean, when I did a tour of campus, I went to the athletic department, and I kind of poked around – and I said: “Hi, I’m a prospective freshman, and I just wanted to know, if I do get in, and if I do decide to come here, how do I go about becoming the mascot?” And they said: “Come back when you’re a student, and we’ll put you in touch with the people to talk to.” And I did, and I had a tryout and an audition, and I was accepted. And I’ve been the mascot at Georgetown ever since, except for one semester where I studied abroad.

Why did the job itself appeal to you?

Being the mascot’s a lot of fun, and I am the mascot not necessarily because I enjoy the sports and the events, which I do, but I do it because I enjoy what a mascot does . as a mascot, your job is to make sure that, basically, everyone is having fun.

What responsibilities do you have as a mascot?

As a mascot, the number one requirement is going to games … We also do charity events . Jack the Bulldog, or Jack the person in the suit, their general responsibilities, I view them as to entertain students wherever students are.

Are the identities of the mascot kept secret? I’ve read that at some schools it’s a big mystery?

At some schools, it’s a big mystery, and I think it should be, because being a mascot allows you to do many things that you couldn’t do otherwise. One of the reasons I enjoy being a mascot is because it’s one of the most surreal things you can do. If I’m wearing a gigantic dog suit, I can approach a stranger, and tousle their hair, and give them a big hug, and they’re going to smile and ask to get their picture with me. If I do that without a dog suit on, that would be insanely creepy . People get really excited when they see Jack the Bulldog, and they say: “Hey! I’m going to give you a big hug.” And the identity of a mascot, I believe, should be kept secret, because when you see Jack, you should only think, “There’s Jack,” not, “There’s Carter Lavin,” because that takes away a lot of the fun.

How many different mascots are there?

When I was a freshman, it was myself as Junior Jack, and then there was a senior. And then when he graduated and retired, I became the senior mascot and brought on two other mascots. One was a junior, and one was a freshman. .. And [now] it’s myself and these two freshmen, and next year, it’s going to be the junior who’s returned, now a senior, and two sophomores. It’s always good to have people interested in being Jack, it’s always good to have people’s name on a list to know, but I think three is a good number to try to keep. During football season, it’s pretty easy, because it’s once a weekend, but basketball gets a little rough because things might overlap with class, and it’s hard to juggle all the requirements of being Jack . so three I’ve found to be a good number. Because if you have a junior, a senior, and a freshman, most likely, one’s going to be able to cover an event.

What is the experience of actually being at a game, down on the floor, in the suit, like?

With the example of basketball, I’ll get to the Verizon Center an hour before the game with the cheer squad and the pep band. I sit around, I stretch, I put on the suit, I walk out, and then I just go up and down the stands, high-fiving, hand-shaking, getting pictures taken, trying not to scare little children . You do some dancing anytime the pep band starts playing. If there’s a group of 10 friends and they’re hanging out in one area, you just annoy one of them a lot, and everyone else will generally laugh . I’m probably in pictures with at least a thousand Georgetown students, probably more. I don’t know [how many], because as Jack, I’m never tagged in these pictures on Facebook, which would be nice. I try to make it so everyone who wants to have an experience with Jack can.

Would you describe some of the most interesting moments-the best, or the strangest-that stand out to you from your career as a mascot?

I’ve gotten squeezed and accosted and propositioned several times. A girl once came up to me and whispered in my ear that she wanted to have my puppies, which was interesting . Going through security, because I travel as Jack – I’ve gone into airport security and train security and gone into Madison Square Garden, and they ask you to open your bags, and you open up your bag and there’s a giant dog head. And you say, “I’m the mascot,” and they look at you and go, “Oh, now that makes sense.” By far the least enjoyable moment was when I was slapped in the face three times by Dikembe Mutombo . Once or twice I’ve gone into the Pierce Reading Room [in Lauinger Library] as Jack, just getting people excited, just walking quietly through, and that’s fun. You just show up, and you’re Jack somewhere, and random, fun things are going to happen. I mean, you show up in a dog suit as the figurehead of your university, and people just act entirely differently than they normally do. And it’s just a lot of fun.

Are you sort of a goofy, extroverted person when you’re not in the dog suit?

Since I’ve now been a mascot for six years, I would say I am a goofy and extroverted person. One of my friends told me that they realized I was Jack because in real life, outside the suit, I dance the exact same way, and they saw me at a party and was like: “You have to be Jack the Bulldog, that’s how he dances.” But it’s a very particular type of person who could be a good mascot. Because if you do have a very loud voice, if you’re naturally very exuberant and pumped up, you’re going to want to be naturally exuberant outside of the suit and have all that energy. Mascots generally attract people who are slightly more introverted, slightly shyer, because it gives them an opportunity to really express themselves in a different way. That’s not where I’m coming from. I think it’s just the oddness of a being a mascot and the fact that I have trouble express high levels of school spirit at a game normally. So I guess I am an exuberant person in daily life, and I think that being a mascot has helped me with that. Now I realize that people just want to have fun. People generally approach things with good humor. I mean, a person comes up to you in a dog suit and your first reaction is to hug that person, which says a lot about people’s faith in humanity and people’s faith in Georgetown University.

To move on from being a mascot, what has your life on the Hilltop been like outside of the Jack suit?

Well, I think a funny thing about my life outside the Jack suit is that I am engaged in student activism. I am a member of H*yas for Choice, I am a member of Plan A.there was a statement I read in The Nation that wrote about H*yas for Choice and Plan A, and they said that H*yas for choice used an asterisk instead of an `o’ in their name because the Hoya is the mascot, and the mascot’s not involved with this, and I thought, “Well, actually.” But it’s just funny because you might see what Plan A does during a GAAP weekend, or what H*yas for Choice does, or what any other group on campus might do that some might say is a blemish on us, but I do those things, and I’m also Jack, and I haven’t gotten many complaints about my performance as Jack. I think for the last four years, I’ve done a good job expressing my affection for this university and this institution. People’s relationship with Georgetown’s a lot more complicated than just black and white.

What I do the rest of my time is work in renewable energy; I’m a STIA major doing the energy and environment, and I’m applying for jobs, and it’s funny because, at each interview I’ve had, because “mascot” is on my resume, it’s generally, almost without, been the first thing they ask me about. There are very few mascots in the world.

Does the real Jack the Bulldog generally get along with the mascot, the man in the Jack suit?

I have nothing against Jack the actual dog, I like Jack the actual dog. Jack the actual dog seems to have issues, I’m guessing, probably with the smell of the suit, because at times when I’ve come anywhere near him, there’s generally some growling and some movement toward me, and some amorous intent on his part toward my legs. And because that’s a picture you want to avoid having, generally if I’m going to pet Jack, I’ll do it very quickly and then get out of there.

The second I get the suit on, I’m ready to go, I’m excited, I know this is going to be a fun day, and, win or lose, everyone in the stands is going to have as much fun as they can.

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