Ollie Gator helps pump up the fun for women's hoops
Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 10:18 p.m.
I've got to give a shout out to Ollie Gator. The inflatable mascot isn't the heavyweight of the mascot world - Albert and Alberta are the imminently recognizable, universally beloved symbols of Gator Nation - but Ollie Gator has got moxie.
We were at a University of Florida women's basketball game at the O'Connell Center when Ollie came out of the tunnel. Staggering on stubby legs, the inflatable reptile lurched along the sidelines looking like he'd been born in a swamp with elevated levels of mercury.
I had my doubts that the hard-working person inside could evoke much fan enthusiasm, given his total lack of movable parts. But that doesn't stop Ollie.
The first time the kids in the stands saw him devour his own inflatable head and stumble around decapitated, they were hooked. Alberta may be cuddly, but she hasn't mastered the art of comedic self-decapitation. After repeatedly slamming into the wall and popping his head loose, Ollie had cemented his place as the funniest mascot in the building.
The action on the court is, of course, just as entertaining as the sideline antics. With all of the attention the football team gets, it's great for kids to see female athletes thumping opponents the way the Lady Gators do. As with soccer games, kids are welcome to come down on the court to form a tunnel for the team members when they enter for warm-ups, and the staff works hard to keep kids entertained.
Some home games feature a Gator FunZone with games or a bounce house. At a recent game, Tommy Pickles from "Rugrats" even made an appearance in the stands to mingle with kids, although I'm not totally sure why.
With kids' tickets just $2 and adults $4, the games are čber-affordable and come with all of the trappings - the pulsing lights and cheesy intro music required of any major sporting event, complete with cheerleaders flying through the air and Dazzlers dancing. For $5, you can buy a reserved seat in the O'Dome's lower level that's so close to the action, you hear every sneaker squeak.
There are plenty of home games left in the season, the next being Jan. 12 against Kentucky at 7 p.m., Jan. 22
against Vanderbilt and Jan. 29 against Georgia, both at 3 p.m. (There are three more home games in February before the end of regular season play.) It's a great opportunity for an affordable, kid-friendly night out that grown-ups will enjoy as much as the younguns.
E-mail Alisson Clark at Scene@gvillesun.com.
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