I’ve always thought that mascots were the coolest figures on the spirit side of any game. Ever since I saw my first US college mascot in action — the Maryland Terrapin, back in 1995 — and the aforementioned Terp took on the rival team’s mascot (a bird of some kind), hoisting him/her? and running them into one of the poles of the football goalposts, I was sure I’d witnessed among the worst possible occupational hazards. (In this instance I believe there was some concussion involved. I can imagine bad things happen to good mascots when they’re mascot napped by opposing teams — hence the heavies who accompany them.)
But today is indeed a sad day. The 21-year-old student who literally brought Ramses (the UNC ram mascot) to life, has lost his in the course of duty. Jason Ray was in the tri-state area to drum up support aming fans attending the Tarheel’s matches in the East Regional Finals of the NCAA college basketball championships, was injured by a vehicle and passed away today.
This is tragic indeed. A statement released by the UNC Athletic Comm noted that, “Jason went above the call of duty to brighten their days and make their child smile and laugh.” I can personally attest that he went out of his way to grant my wish for a photo op. When we went to a Tarheels game a few months ago, I chased Ramses down with his three bodyguards and he happily stopped, got them to step away and one of them to snap this photo.
You can read the full statement here, as well as details on where donations can be made.