The banana suit has become synonymous with the Spartan student section at football games. Every year, the costume, along with the Spartan flag, is passed down from a graduating senior to a rising senior who has displayed great school spirit. Attending every game, the “banana” is responsible for leading the crowd in cheer. At halftime, it has even become custom that the “banana” will join the cheerleaders on the track for the special “Go Bananas” chant.
The fact that White Station has a mascot-esque banana rather than an actual spartan is a bit peculiar; however, this eccentricity of Spartan Nation has been a student section tradition since its origin during the football season of 2006.
“The story actually doesn’t start with the banana. It starts with the gorilla behind the banana…” 2007 graduate and original banana Omair Khattak said.
Khattak’s buddy—fellow senior Michael Spruill—worked at Little Caesars as a sign holder on the corner of Park and Mendenhall. Spruill decided to wear a gorilla suit while twirling the sign, believing it would draw more attention and more business.
Wanting to further energize the crowd at games since White Station didn’t have a home stadium, a sizable student section or a dedicated mascot, Khattak and Spruill decided to wear the gorilla suit along with a corresponding banana suit during sporting events.
“We thought ‘what better way to entertain the crowd and be goofy than to have a gorilla chase a banana,’ and so I bought the banana suit from Party City and put WSHS on the front,” Khattak said. “I would hop in the banana suit and Michael would put on his gorilla suit, and we would get the crowd hype by running up and down the sidelines at football games and in the bleachers at basketball games.”
Back then, there was not a designated person who wore the suit every game. Instead, the banana and gorilla suits were passed around to anyone willing to wear them for that particular game. It wasn’t just senior guys, as is custom now. Sophomores, juniors and even some girls wore the suit on different occasions.
“It wasn’t really like a position amongst the student body, it was shared amongst a coterie of friends. But amongst the friends that participated in that year’s rotation while we were seniors, there were a few sophomores and juniors who really took to it,” Khattak said.
2009 graduate Ramzi Abdoch was one such sophomore who, during that fateful first year, wore the banana and gorilla suits at various games. A close friend of Khattak’s, he was left with the suit once Khattak, Spruill and the other participating seniors graduated. Even though the banana suit remained a shared responsibility among the student section, it was kept in Abdoch’s car during his junior and senior years.
“[The students] were amused by [the banana and gorilla suit] because it was totally non-sequitur. I think part of the novelty just really helped accelerate us and keep us going,” Abdoch said. “Even the cheerleaders got involved. We would just kinda dance with them, and everyone really enjoyed it.”
Neither Khattak nor Abdoch imagined that the banana suit would become such a treasured tradition at White Station. Not much has changed since its inception 11 years ago other than the loss of the complementary gorilla suit and the fact that it is now a designated person.
Currently, Hunter Goldberg (12) holds this position amongst the senior class. Since he showed so much school spirit at football games his junior year, Goldberg was selected by the previous “banana” Joseph Boughter to lead the student section this year as a senior.
“[The tradition] is something fun to get [students] excited at sports games, and to be a part of that is great,” Goldberg said. “I love having the chance to lead and support my friends.”