Duquesne Basketball: Red Man, Blue Man add color to games
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The dull happenings in the student section just weren't enough for a couple of Duquesne students.
The cheers -- they weren't animated enough.
The jeers at the other team -- no, not vivacious enough, either.
There had to be an answer, there had to be a way to get noticed, to spike the level of excitement.
Of course, a polyester and spandex mix.
Or, as one of them put it, "probably the greatest thing I've ever purchased."
Equal parts phenomena, hilarity, school spirit, ingenuity and knuckleheadedness, it all surfaced publicly for the first time Jan. 23 at the Duquesne men's basketball game against St. Bonaventure and, since then, has grown into a sideshow all its own inside the Palumbo Center when the Dukes take the court.
The true identity of these, um, renaissance men, are being withheld, other than to say they are dean's list pharmacy students. Just a handful of their friends know who it is inside the costumes.
Matchup: Duquesne (14-12, 5-7 Atlantic 10) vs. Dayton (18-7, 7-4), 1 p.m. today, A.J. Palumbo Center
TV, Radio, Internet: ESPN2, KQV-AM (1410); GoDuquesne.com.
Duquesne: Has won three of its past four games, including an upset victory at Charlotte on Wednesday in which Bill Clark hit four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points. ... Although the Dukes have one more home date remaining -- a March 5 Friday afternoon matinee against Fordham -- the program will recognize lone senior Jason Duty today.
Dayton: After a two-game losing streak late last month, the Flyers have won four of their past five games, most recently defeating visiting La Salle, 68-54, on Thursday. ... Defeated the Dukes in the conference opener for both teams this season, 78-72, in a game that went overtime. ... With coach Brian Gregory's penchant to substitute liberally, 11 players have played at least 150 minutes this season.
Hidden stat: This game marks Duty's 105th in his college career.
But what they have done the past four Duquesne home games -- in which the Dukes are 3-1 headed into today's contest with Dayton -- can't be ignored.
For the sake of this story, they will be known as Red Man and Blue Man, quite fitting for a couple of college kids who lead an otherwise normal existence -- except when the Dukes have a home game and they crawl into those form-fitting, full-body suits that cover them from the soles of their feet to the top of their heads.
"It's like looking out of a screen door, probably 50-60 percent of your normal vision," Blue Man said of the getup. "Other than that, surprisingly, the thing is really comfortable."
Hold on. Back up for a minute.
How does someone arrive at the decision to wear one of these outlandish and taut suits?
Peer pressure, of course.
"We went down to Virginia Tech last year for the NIT game, just dressed as ourselves," Red Man said. "And there was a student who had on an orange suit like ours. He was great. He ran around and got everyone involved, waved a flag and everything."
Just like that, an idea began to fester.
But it took awhile to garner up the nerve and decide to make the investment. (These are college kids, remember. Indecision and shallow pockets come with the territory.)
But after a few home games this season, Red Man and Blue Man -- who have been die-hard fans since arriving at Duquesne -- knew something needed to be done.
The sterility of the 30 or so regulars in the student section just wasn't cutting it.
As they viewed it, there wasn't any life, no enthusiasm -- the Palumbo's pall was appalling.
So they found the suits on the Internet -- "about $70 each," Red Man said --and had them shipped out right away.
It was a small price to pay to start down a road to eventual cult-hero status.
There is the official Dukes mascot, dressed in a tuxedo and a top hat, who stands near the student section, but he wasn't getting the job done. To clarify, Red Man and Blue Man are guerilla mascots. They are not officially recognized by the university.
"The Duke, he's OK, just OK," Red Man said. "No offense to him, but he doesn't bring any life to the crowd."
He was quickly cut off.
"Yeah, not like we can," Blue Man interjected.
Blue Man and Red Man don't say much at games. Actually, they make a point to say as little as possible, thinking it could lead to revealing their identity.
Instead, they run around the Palumbo, stopping to get photos snapped with Duquesne fans.
They stand in the first row of the student section jumping up and down in a tireless display of energy.
When the pep band burst into a song, they break into fanatical dances, sometimes moving along with the beat, more often a step or two removed from it.
"At the very least, we want to be a talking point," Blue Man said. "But we can only do so much."
Which is the goal of this.
"What it comes down to is that 30 or 40 students going to games is kind of embarrassing," Red Man said. "We decided to do this to create some energy, to hopefully get some more people to come out, to show the students that, yes, you can have a lot of fun at a basketball game."
Red Man and Blue Man have a couple of years left on the Bluff, but the inevitable waits.
What happens when these two characters graduate?
Do the costumes get passed down to a Blue Man and Red Man in waiting?
"I don't know about that. I haven't thought about our legacy," Red Man said. "But, seriously, though, you think some guy would want to wear a spandex suit after some other guy wore it?
"I think we'll probably just frame them."
First Published February 21, 2010 12:00 am