On Sept. 9, San Francisco 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam posed for a photoshoot with Clo the Cow, the mascot of Clover Sonoma, a brand new group sponsor. The photographer needed to discover the correct angle for the shoot, in order to greatest seize Sam’s unyielding blue eyes, full beard, and perpetual wide-mouthed smile, whereas additionally not calling too a lot consideration to the orange skies that draped the Bay Space in an unsettling haze.

4 days later, on Sept. 13, Sourdough Sam was again at Levi’s Stadium for the 49ers season opener. The sky wasn’t orange anymore; it was smoky, and the air high quality in Santa Clara was poor. Sam frolicked via the stands as per standard… besides there have been no followers in attendance, simply cutouts of 49ers devoted and their pets.

Sure, not even an NFL mascot is exempt from the domino results of local weather change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

To get a greater sense of what life is like for an NFL mascot this season, SFGATE twice spoke to Constantine “DC” Abramson, who’s held the place on a full-time foundation since 2017. However know: For those who ask Abramson if he mans the Sourdough Sam costume, he received’t affirm or deny it, largely “to maintain the magic alive.”

Within the Earlier than Occasions, Sam’s gameday routine was fairly regimented, Abramson says. First, there have been rehearsals to attend. Then Sam would head to the tailgate, the place he frolicked with followers and hopped round to rallies circling the stadium. After a short break within the motion, Sam would lead the total 49ers leisure squad onto the sphere, waving his pickaxe and hitting somersaults alongside the way in which. Whereas the sport progressed, Sam visited as many sections of the stadium as attainable. He’d shoot T-shirts from a cannon within the third quarter, then return to the sphere to pump up the group within the fourth and remaining body.

“Sourdough in all probability put extra steps in than anyone on gameday,” Abramson says. “Usually [he’s] worn out and exhausted.”

Now? Properly, there’s much less working round, for one. Solely two groups, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, are permitting restricted quantities of attendees at their stadiums. Mascots, in addition to sideline reporters and cheerleaders, have also been banned from entering the field this season, additional complicating issues.

Abramson says after the pandemic shut down massive parts of the nation, he and different NFL mascots really began huddling on Zoom each couple of weeks, so they may focus on methods to reinvent the mascot position and preserve it semi-relevant.

In opposition to the Cardinals, Abramson’s abridged plan for Sourdough Sam was put to the take a look at. There was no tailgate, and a significantly much less tense vibe, since Sam wasn’t being swarmed for photographs each 5 seconds. As an alternative, Sam spent extra time with the 49ers’ DJ and Gold Rush cheerleading squad (whereas holding distance), and did promo work on social media. In lieu of roaming all corners of the stadium, Sam posted up subsequent to his favourite cutouts, and manned the 49ers’ foghorn, a job typically assigned to a particular visitor.

“Strolling down into the cutouts part nearly feels such as you’re in a dream,” Abramson says. “It obtained to be enjoyable although, seeing what poses to check out. However nothing beats having the followers on the market for precise, genuine reactions. It was eerily quiet, even with music taking part in.”

It is a unusual sensation having your wacky antics largely ignored, however Abramson appears like Sourdough Sam hit his stride finally. To offset the eeriness, Abramson had Sam to function like there have been 1000’s of individuals watching his each transfer, despite the fact that the actual quantity was nearer to possibly 5, tops.

Abramson says Sourdough Sam hasn’t had an opportunity to debrief with different mascot “greatest associates” but, however is eager about listening to how issues went for them, too. And he is adopting a professional soccer participant’s mindset for the way Sourdough Sam will method the remainder of the season.

“You continue to should carry the power even with the followers not there,” Abramson says. “Sourdough Sam continues to be going to present one hundred pc.”

Alex Shultz is the SFGate sports activities editor. E mail: alex.shultz@sfgate.com | Twitter: @AlexShultz


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