Season one of Hulu’s original documentary series Behind the Mask explored the lives of high school, college, semi-pro, and professional sports teams, and earned the streaming content provider its first Emmy nomination along the way. Viewers, myself included, quickly became captivated by the stories of awkward yet idealistic Michael “Rooty” Hostetter of Lebanon High School, rowdy party boy Jon “Jersey/HeyReb!” Goldman of the University of Las Vegas, iron man and family man Kevin “Bango” Vanderkolk of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Chad “Tux” Spencer of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who doggedly pursued his American dream. This last charismatic character makes a return in season two, but the other players are all new. Let’s meet the mascots.
As sweet and socially awkward as season one’s high school mascot was, season two’s counterpart is equally confident and popular. Just as likable as Hostetter, Baker is every bit as energetic, ambitious, and pumped full of school spirit in her alter ego as Gilbert High School’s Tiger. The mascot, described in Baker’s own confuzzled words as “furricious,” is regarded as fierce throughout the Arizona town, a trait stemming directly from Baker’s own personality. Whether she’s acting like a dog in her family’s front yard, or cannonballing into an impromptu mud puddle on her school grounds, everyone who knows her knows that, “That’s just Navey.”
While her spirit certainly brings the Tiger to life, Baker’s not just an athlete on the sidelines; she also plays rugby and participates in track, a real go-getter with big aspirations. Season two aims to explore Baker’s ambition to attend college, become her next school’s mascot, and eventually climb the ranks to join her furry-suited heroes on the professional rung. Her first step? Participating in a national High School mascot championship, a trial she aims to win with her characteristic silliness. “I’m gonna earn my stripes this year … what else can I say about tigers?”
Based out of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Hall is “The Man of 1,000 Mascots” … or 14, at last count. The 25-year-old freelancer has played such roles as Bucky the Blood Drop, the Chick-Fil-A cow, Fantasy Dragon, Rita’s Italian Ice Guy, and Wawa’s Wally Goose. An impressive feat alone, but even moreso when you consider that fact that Hall is afflicted with severe social anxiety and is on the high-functioning end of the Autism spectrum.
This is certainly some new territory for the series, not only exploring Hall’s struggle with his disabilities, but his goal to find a regular position as a mascot rather than a seasonal performer. Unlike the others, Hall doesn’t have a school administration or a professional organization backing him; what he does have is his loving, supportive mother. Being a mascot has helped Hall overcome his social anxieties and memories of being bullied, a helpful effect the mother/son team aim to bring to others as they try to start their own mascot business.
This season’s professional mascot comes courtesy of Major League Baseball team, the San Francisco Giants. Zimei, who won the job (or, as he says, “Sealed the deal”) on a wing and a prayer, currently has the longest-running active streak for home games by any professional mascot: 1,027. His aim is to break Cal Ripken’s streak of 2,632. Complicating that goal might just be the arrival of his new baby daughter.
This season’s pro has elements of last year’s equivalent: Zimei is a real family man whose love for his pregnant wife and daughter is the only thing that outpaces his zeal for performing in front of sold-out crowds. The Giants are certainly one of the best teams to work for, considering they’ve won three World Series in the last five years. The highly superstitious Zimei likes to believe that he’s had a hand (or a flipper) in the success of the team of ultra-athletic sports stars, but if his new baby daughter arrives on game day, Zimei plans to be by his wife’s side, streak or no streak.
Fans of the first season of Behind the Mask will certainly remember the big jokester who delights as the semi-pro hockey team’s squeaking mascot, Tux. Why feature Spencer in season two? Well, his goal to land a gig as a pro mascot fell short last season due to a lack of openings, but it looks like his luck might just change in season two. He’ll need all the luck he can get, since he compares the chances of making it in the big leagues to winning the lottery. I’m really pulling for Spencer, a goofy guy that’s huge on heart, committed to his craft, and always has his family at the forefront of his thoughts. Will Spencer manage to take the next step, bringing him closer to his lifelong dream and, more importantly, being able to provide for his son? You’ll have to tune in to find out!
Hulu’s Behind the Mask returns for Season 2 on Thursday, February 26th. Watch the teaser trailer below: