Being Sparty…Alumni Behind the Armor

Posted on: August 27, 2013

You know him as MSU’s very own superhero. He embodies everything that is green and white, displaying it through gestures, cheers, hugs and high-fives.

His name: Sparty. The mascot who receives attention everywhere he goes.

But who is Sparty? The person behind the armor can’t reveal their identity until after their call of duty expires, which is why it is okay for us to tell you that the College of Communication Arts and Sciences has had six students hold this position, nearly a quarter of all former Spartys, including the only female to ever wear the Sparty armor.

Spartys from CAS include:

  • Clark Ramsey – 2011 Media Arts and Technology; TV, Cinema and Radio alumnus
  • Jack Vigneron – 2011 Communication alumnus
  • Ryan Fox – 2010 Journalism alumnus
  • Ben Hatala – 2010 Advertising alumnus
  • Eric Palmer – 2009 Advertising alumnus
  • Erin Riley Bormes – 1998 Communication alumna

Sparty attends weddings, parties, bar mitzvahs, parades, charity and public events, alumni functions, commercials and all major sporting events. Needless to say, he is a busy guy and is constantly in demand, making it necessary for a full-time student to be committed.

He is the premiere program of the MSU Alumni Association's student organization, "The Association of Future Alumni.” To become Sparty, you must apply to be in the Sparty Escort Program, assisting him at appearances. Then there is an application process and tryouts to determine a successor.

Hatala, Sparty Alumni Board President, describes his experience in 2009 as comparable to being Batman. “It’s all for the pride, not for the glory. Obviously your immediate family knows, but outside of that, the identity must remain secret.”

Bormes, the only female Sparty to date, misses the reactions of everyone in the room. “When he enters a room, he is the coolest person there,” Bormes said. “When I enter the room these days, I am just an ordinary person!”

Similarly, Fox says, “I miss the view from Sparty. The perspective through the eyes of Sparty is incredible. I was able to see the true MSU pride in every former, current and future student. Sparty brings out the real spirit of a Spartan.”

Having been recognized as the “Buffest Mascot,” according to Muscle and Fitness Magazine, does come with its own set of challenges.

“You want to interact and share as much with as many fans as possible, but you quickly become exhausted and extremely dehydrated,” Hatala said. “Managing Sparty's appearance schedule in addition to personal and class schedules was a tremendous endeavor. However, like anything in life, if you truly enjoy what you are doing, it’s not burdensome at all, and I miss the busy days of campus life.”

Is it a coincidence that many CAS students have been perfect for this role? It doesn’t seem to be. Palmer compares his 2007 experience as Sparty to what he learned in the classroom.

“Many of the industries and jobs that communication arts majors eventually end up in require a solid knowledge of current trends, be they design, journalism, technology or pop culture,” Palmer said. “That definitely helps in the world of a mascot. When you can spoof current events or create a skit using the new popular song or dance, it’s going to connect with students and fans that much better.”

Sparty seems to have mastered a lot by saying very little, in fact, he doesn’t say anything at all.

“Sparty may not be able to talk, but he’s a social guy. I think that many of the communication arts classes rely heavily on social interaction between the students, not to mention communication in general,” Palmer said. “The execution was different, but the idea’s the same. He had to get his point across with props and gestures with his hands and body.”

The next time you encounter MSU’s beloved mascot, remember that the man or woman behind the armor may be closer than you think.

MSU’s football season kicks off Friday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. at home against Western Michigan University. You can count on Sparty, true to his super-hero persona, to be there and for his actions to speak louder than words!

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