As a surging sea of cherry and white fills the bleachers at the season’s first Temple men’s basketball game, Greg Frank strolls through a maze of dark tunnels in the bowels of the Liacouras Center – through the media entrance, past a cluster of stretching cheerleaders and a group of chatty Diamond Gem dancers applying mascara. The distant thump of music and the screech of sneakers echoes from above.
He arrives at B23, a tiny, concrete room with a pair of huge foam feet lying on the ground and a yellow beak peaking out from under a bench. This is Hooter T. Owl’s personal locker room.
After a swig of blue Powerade, Greg ditches his black sweats and suits up, adding plenty of padding to his lean, 5-foot-7-inch frame.
At 25 minutes until tip-off, Greg’s friend and “Hooter-in-training” stops by, and they share some pre-game gossip about the competition.
“I think he might have a big head,” Greg says, joking about the arrogant Seton Hall mascot. Seconds later, he pulls the gigantic owl mask over his face.
If anyone has a big head, it’s Hooter.
Like flipping a switch, Greg brings instant swagger to the character. Taking the stairs two at a time, he bolts up to the concourse level for a meet-and-greet lap with fans.
Cheers of “There goes the owl!” and “I’m your number one fan!” fill the air as he high steps around the concourse, stopping outside Section 208 for a picture with Temple’s track and field team.
After fist bumping an enthusiastic fan, he continues, cutting in line and attempting to order a soda at City View Pizza.
Somewhere around Section 116, Hooter is bombarded with hugs from kids in cherry Temple T-shirts. They playfully tackle him to the ground before getting pictures and high fives.
After the eight-minute lap, Greg returns to his locker and removes the Hooter head for a quick breather, sweat pouring down his face.
This job is a labor of love for a Temple fan like Greg, and the game hasn’t even started.
With a few minutes to kill, Greg reminisces about his most memorable Hooter moments during the past four years, naming 2009’s victory over the St. Joe’s men’s basketball team at the Palestra the clear winner.
He also recalls a freak incident at the Temple-Villanova football game in September, when a friend chest bumped him after a touchdown, knocking his Hooter head off in front of the crowd.
With that, a soft-spoken Greg walks to the tunnel entrance leading onto the court.
As the pre-game buzzer sounds, Hooter emerges from the other side, jumping and dancing into the spotlight, commanding the crowd’s attention as only a fanatical, larger-than-life owl can.
– Julie Achilles
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