What was meant to be a quick three-hour snapshot of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s former sports mascot instead turned into a full day of exposition and insight into his life.
When the door opened, I did not expect to see the mascot itself. Soon after I realized there was no distinction between the mascot and the man in the costume.
Our interview began in Kwinten’s study, or rather a glorified storage closet plastered wall-to-wall with photos of himself at games. Some torn off of team shots seemed to be printouts of grainy video footage. The cramped room smelled of cigarette smoke, spilt alcohol, and bird B.O.
“I was wondering when someone would come to meet the legend in person, took you long enough,” Kwinten commented as he sat down on one of the two folding chairs.
His wife, Vanessa, seems to permanently wear a strained smile on her face. She is a refreshing dose of reality in what is otherwise a unique home. She offers coffee and cookies, and brings a bowl of birdseed that Kwinten consumes with relish, taking a wingfull of seeds and tilting his bird head up to drop them through the gap between the costume’s head and its body… presumably into his mouth.
His desire for his son to follow in his footsteps is apparent, family photos of a mini-Kwinten reveal that multiple costumes have been purchased as the boy grew.
“My boy is gonna be like his daddy. I mean, he won’t be as good as I was. I would’ve gone pro if they hadn’t benched me,” he says.
Kwinten tries his best to bond with his son, which usually involves him hovering behind the couch with a beer in his hand as his son watches Five Nights at Freddy’s streams.
“This is the problem now!” He exclaimed to the screen. “Automation is putting us all out of work! First it was that damn mouse Chuck and now this!”
These tirades seem to be common, as his son turns the stream off and leaves the room with a casual mention of homework that needed doing.
“It’s impossible to get a job now unless you work for Mickey Mouse, and believe me I tried. It went alright at first, but then they started asking dumb questions about what park I would fit best in. I was like, ‘hold up, you’re acting like you’re not gonna open up a new park just for me!?'”
The interviewers allegedly hung up soon after that comment.
In the evening, Vanessa left with their son to have dinner with her parents. Kwinten cracked his back dramatically and proclaimed, “Now I can really let loose! Dinner with the in-laws is the worst. They’re always complaining about the costume and ‘getting a real job.’ Like I’m just in between gigs, they don’t get it.”
He brought out a 24-pack of beer from the garage and two pints of Ben and Jerry’s. He set up on the front room couch, pulled out a worn DVD case labelled ‘Kwinten’s Best Hits’ and popped it in the player.
It was a poorly-edited compilation of Kwinten cheering on KPU’s sports teams from 2010 to 2015, cut to only focus on the eagle.
He proceeded to light a cigarette and, using a surprising level of dexterity with a wing, lined it up with a small hole in the side of the beak on his costume. He alternated between the cigarette, his beer, and his ice cream, consuming the beer through a well-used silly straw.
He ate the ice cream in the same way he ate the birdseed.
“So when am I getting back on the field?” he asked after the 27 minute-long compilation of footage ended. He seemed to think that our interview indicated that KPU was reviving its varsity sports program, and that he would once again strut along the fields, basking in the glory of competitive university athletics.
While there was little information I could give him, he seemed to come away with the understanding that KPU would hire him again sometime soon. I came away with the understanding that this is one eagle who has yet to fly on his own.