EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 5, 2010

Who is that Green Man? Central students mum on mascot's true identity, with video

By Mark E. Vogler

He has no eyes, no hair, no discernible features, and is covered head to toe in skintight, neon nylon. But this alien-like creature known as the Green Man has become the all-important sixth man for Central Catholic's winning basketball teams.

"Green Man's awesome because he symbolizes the Central pride," senior Dylan Smith, 17, said. "He goes crazy as he gets us all pumped up as he rages to techno and crowd surfs."

Green Man debuted before Central Catholic fans, known as "Central Crazies," at the Feb. 2 boys' bout against rival Andover High School. He became an instant sensation and now students pound the floor in a "Green Man! Green Man!" chant before each game, waiting for him to arrive courtside riding piggyback on a fellow student's shoulders.

Few students know Green Man's true identity, and those that do want to keep it a "mystery to the outside world." But in an exclusive interview Tuesday, Green Man gave clues to who is behind the mask.

"Green Man is only a junior and is an honor roll student. He eats broccoli, spinach and pickles and is always here for a good time," Green Man said.

The suit he wears is similar to one worn by a character in the TV comedy series, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." Green Man said it really bears no significance, just something he decided to put on before a game.

"I decided to wear it and I figured it would inspire the crowd," said Green Man.

Central senior Francis Schaufenbil, 18, is one of the Crazies who goes by the alias Yoshi, the name of the green dinosaur on his T-shirt. He declined to identify his close friend or explain why he prefers to keep the Green Man's identity secret.

"Nobody knew who Superman was. It's just the way it is," he said.

No doubt the Green Man will be at TD Garden tonight as both the Central boys and girls teams compete in the state sectional championship games, leading the fans in dance, cheers, chants and other antics.

Central Catholic High School Principal David DeFillippo frowns at the crowd surfing, when Green Man is hoisted above the crowd and passed along by fans. But he cracked a smile, while calling the spirit behind this year's Raiders basketball teams "unprecedented."

"I've been principal for 11 years and at the school for 39 years overall, and I've never seen anything like this," DeFillippo said. "It's several notches above what I've ever seen. It's like going to a dance and a basketball game simultaneously — so you get two for the price of one."

But DeFillippo noted there are several other characters who are conspiring with the green-colored cheerleader, including one student who plays Moses. But in metaphoric fashion, this student, Moses, stands before a red sea of students wearing their school's color.

"When he gives the command, the sea parts," DeFillippo said of the crowd, which then splits allowing Moses to run up and down the bleachers and through the crowd.

"We've had a penguin and a cowboy, too. You never know who is going to show up," he said.

Rachel Sheehan, co-captain of the Raiders cheerleading squad, said cheerleading has become more challenging because of Green Man.

"He gets the crowd so pumped up we can't hear ourselves — it's definitely become harder," Sheehan said. "But we all love him. Everybody looks forward to seeing the Green Man. Our coach is big on being loud."

Matt Palmisano, 18, a senior, sporting a toy sheriff's badge while wearing a cowboy hat, struts around the Green Man like he's a guard. Followers call him "the Green Man's sidekick."

Besides the cowboy, Green Man can get the whole crowd to protect him if he needs it. This was evident Tuesday at Central's game versus Acton-Boxborough, when a look-alike emerged from the opponents' fan section and challenged Green Man to an arm wrestling challenge. Central's Green Man pulled back his arm as the referee blew the whistle and the home crowd reminded the visiting team's fans of who was the better team.

"Scoreboard! Scoreboard!" they chanted.

With a little more than four minutes left in Tuesday's game, Green Man climbed on the back of one of the Crazies and left in what has become his victory celebration.

"He never stays," said Bianca Silveira, 18, a senior.

"Green Man does his disappearing act when he knows the game is over, but comes back as a normal person. I love the Green Man because he's brought so much spirit to this school."

Schaufenbil (Yoshi) said the power of Green will bring the power of the Red Raiders victory.

"With Green Man, we are fist-pumping our way to a state championship," Schaufenbil said.