Jim Kovarik drives the Oak Grove Lutheran (Fargo, N.D.) school bus to road games, which is good, because he finds a special place to stash his ax. Yes, he carries an ax with him.
Kovarik - like former Fresno State Bulldog football coach Pat Hill and former Temple Owl basketball coach John Chaney - resembles his school's mascot. Fortunately for Kovarik, his doppleganger mascot is an actual human being, and an awfully tough one.
"The guy’s arms are pretty good-sized and mine are pretty good-sized," Kovarik said.
The guy is Oak Grove Lutheran's new Grover lumberjack mascot (that is, the one on the logo; Kovarik really has become the actual mascot). And he can thank Sesame Street for all this Fargo fame.
No one seems sure exactly when or how it happened, but at some point the annoying Sesame Street character Grover became known as the school mascot. Finally, a few influential people stepped in and said enough of the Sesame Street circus. A Grover is a rough lumberjack, not a furry blue creature.
So the Grovers – who are among 255 high schools involved in USA TODAY High School Sports’ Best Mascot competition – came up with a new logo a couple of years ago and ... you know that new maintenance guy? Dang, this looks a lot like him.
The more comments being made about the resemblence, the more Kovarik began morphing into a lumberjack. This school year, Kovarik fully embraced his inevitable role. He dresses as a lumberjack, carries an ax into games and hangs with the students during games, joining in all their cheers.
School officials say the similarities are a mere coincidence. That's fine with Kovarik; he doesn't need that kind of pressure.
“I wouldn’t want them to have me pictured as a mascot per se, because when I leave, then what?" Kovarik asked, obviously not realizing he now is locked into working at the school for life. "But I think it's pretty cool. It's a representation of what they want the Grover name to be.
"And I kind of fit the bill.”