The Other Mascots
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The men's basketball team is one win and an Akron loss away from clinching the number one seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament. But another group of men in blue uniforms are getting the fans on their feet.
UB BlueGroup is a foursome of freshmen that met at orientation and through mutual friends. The group dresses in blue morphsuits to support Buffalo athletics, most noticeably, the men's basketball team. The group has become a consistent landscape on the arena floor in front of the student section.
The morphsuits were made famous by the character Charlie Kelly on the television show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and was mimicked by two fans of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, who mock opposing players in the penalty box.
The four bought the morphsuits and four hats – a sombrero, chef hat, crown, and bullhorns hat – as Halloween costumes. From there, they would run around the dorm rooms at the Ellicott Complex taking pictures with random students. Now, the foursome can be seen at most home men's basketball games and even made the trip to Akron on Wednesday night.
The group has even developed a fan base of its own. Buffalo fans cried out to the group's Facebook page – which has over 100 friends - when it missed a game earlier in the season. The younger fans walk over from the other bleachers to them to get a high five or a picture with the group.
But its biggest compliment comes from the Buffalo players.
"They love us," UB BlueGroup said. "Ever since the beginning when Dave Barnett had that shout out for the first game, when they made the video. He was like ‘the first thing I saw was the four guys dressed in blue suits and I knew it was going to be a crazy year.' So that was the one time I was like, we going to be something, because the basketball players are noticing."
The group's goal is to help the team anyway they can. It often sets the tempo for the entire student section to the point that True Blue looks to them to get the fans into the game.
It also does everything it can to get into the opposing players' heads.
"It has to be some kind of mental game," UB BlueGroup said. "[There] definitely has to be some distraction to the players, especially when they are taking free throws and we are right by the basket and you see four guys [in] all solid blue suits just waving around."
The members of the group jump, wave their arms, and yell at the players. One of their recent targets was Ohio guard D.J. Cooper. Pictures surfaced on the Internet of him in a bikini and UB BlueGroup made sure he knew it saw them.
The group has some signature moves to go along with the constant harassment of opposing players.
The four dance around one of the member's sombrero during True Blue's cowbell victory celebration for what has been named "The Mexican Hat Dance." They have since added the 3-point salute. The group does the 3-point goggles then rotates and gives a salute to signal a Bulls' 3-pointer.
The group has even had imitators. Two people dressed in different color morphsuits with bicycle helmets came to one of the games but were quickly shunned by the original foursome.
The members of the group have kept their identities secret with the exception of a few floor mates and close friends. Their anonymity is crucial to keeping the illusion the way it is.
"It's like we are different types of mascots than Victor E. Bull," UB BlueGroup said. "So we have our identities concealed so we can do whatever. Being anonymous really helps. I don't think anybody would try to do any of this as a normal person."
Being a part of the UB BlueGroup isn't as easy as it looks. The morphsuit comes with some handicaps. Although it is easy to drink and breathe in, it creates some visual problems for the men inside them.
"It definitely gets hot," UB BlueGroup said. "There's a little loss of vision, you can see a little bit. That's the worst part about the blue suits, is sometimes you miss certain things in the game because it's blurry."
Also, going to the bathroom is a project in itself. The men must go to a stall in the bathroom and the group estimates it takes about 20 minutes to perform the task.
The group plans to expand to other sports in the coming years, including volleyball, wrestling and football. But the UB BlueGroup is ready for its first experience with a cold November game at UB Stadium.