LORA LYONS // LORA LYONS PHOTOGRAPHY
Half-time is here, which means one thing: it’s senior Caleb Mohamed’s moment. In the radiant, yellow suit, he leaps onto the field. With all eyes on him, the chant begins in the student section, growing louder each time. “Go banana! Go-go banana! Go banana!” He is well aware that this is how he will be remembered years after high school: dressing up in a banana suit, hyping up the student body, dancing in front of hundreds of people. To outsiders, this tradition just seems like a funny skit, but any Spartan knows that the moment the banana steps on the field during halftime is the one time the diverse population of White Station can unite, even if it is just in laughter.
Since 2006, the banana legacy has carried on. It all started when Omair Khattak and Michael Spruill wanted to get more attendance and participation at basketball games. One of them dressed in a gorilla suit, chasing the other wearing a banana suit. Over the years, the gorilla suit disappeared, and another role formed in its place: the flag holder. Each year, the flag and banana suit are passed down to two rising seniors with the most school spirit.
“Putting on that beautiful bright yellow is a privilege that many won’t get to experience in their high school career,” Erick Gonzalez (11) said. “The flag is equally as important as it plays the same role for the student section. Both are essential to a great football game.”
But there is always careful consideration in choosing the next student section leaders.
“It’s more than just a banana,” Japanese teacher Dylan Lira said. “There is a person in that banana, right? And it’s always, always, always been so important that whoever is in that banana, whoever decides to take up that suit, it’s someone that the students can look up to and recognize.”
According to last year’s seniors, Mohamed and Ben Sharabi (12) were the best fit for these roles.
“They chose me because I showed great school spirit and real grit and grind,” Mohamed said. “It feels great. My name is going to go down in history. It feels great to be the best banana there ever will be.”
This year’s game against Christian Brothers High School (CBHS), Mohamed and Sharabi proved how energetic they could make the student body.
“I would say we had 150 in the section before the blackout and post blackout [we had] at least 200,” Mohamed said. “Everyone was jumping up and down bumping to music, having the best time. This was an experience to definitely remember.”
In fact, some may argue they did their jobs too well when a crowd of White Station students got carried away and decided to storm CBHS’s side when all the lights were out due to a power outage. The Monday after the game, news of an alleged assault of the CBHS dean was scattering through the hallways. Several students were pulled out of class to be questioned, phones were taken and searched, and the banana was banned.
“The situation is still a bit murky, but I do think it’s super unfair for all the students,” Gonzalez said. “The banana is a big staple of our football games and student section, and taking it away just makes everyone much less excited to even be a part of the student section.”
The game after the blackout, less than 10 students showed up to support the football team in response, boycotting the administration’s decision.
“With everything that went on, it feels awesome to know that I have people behind my back despite whatever the consequences may be,” Mohamed said. “I just hope this puts something into perspective to the administration of what the student body can do to defend one another.”
Mohamed and Sharabi are preparing for the worst: not having student section leaders for the rest of the year. However, they know that next year, the banana will rise again, and they will have a lot of advice to offer.
“Don’t be embarrassed. It’s not embarrassing,” Sharabi said. “People will rather look up to you, rather than laugh at you for the most part because you are doing something that not a lot of people have the courage to do.”
Banning the beloved banana may reduce controversies for the school arising from the student section, but it will certainly diminish school spirit and unity.
“It’s just something about the banana that’s like, ‘that’s awesome,’” Lira said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, who you are, what you think is or isn’t funny; the banana is awesome … It is a good symbol to have.”