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Former 1980's Sparky talks starting push-up tradition

Former mascot and ASU alumnus passes along his traditions to his son

ASU mascot Sparky practices doing push-ups before  a game against the USC Trojans in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016.
ASU mascot Sparky practices doing push-ups before a game against the USC Trojans in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016.

The stadium roars. Fireworks fly up into the air and fizzle down in an array of colors. Sparky the Sun Devil does push-ups on the side of the football field post-touchdown. 

It's a time-honored tradition much like the sometimes secretive and always spirited role of Sparky.

Alan Wald, formerly known as Sparky the Sun Devil from 1980 to 1983, was the man behind the tradition and also the man behind the mask.

His sophomore year of college, Wald auditioned for the position of Sparky. At the time, there were two Sparkies: one for football and one for basketball. Wald initially only received the mascot position for basketball, but by his senior year, he cheered on the field for both basketball and football.

The two-Sparky system varies greatly from the eight different people who play the role of Sparky today. Wald was, unlike many of the Sparkies to come, one who established traditions within the Sparky ranks.

“I was trying to be a fan and entertain the crowd,” Wald said. “So, I would do little things that would play up on who we were playing against. I would do a slam dunk with a mini-tramp.”

Alan Wald's Sparky quickly became famous for his pushups. One game, he pressed out 317 push-ups with the football players egging him on.

“I started doing push-ups,” Wald said. “That became a running joke with the football players. They wanted to know how many push-ups I could do. I said, ‘Score more points, and we’ll see.’ Back in the day, I would get to do them in the end zone, and the team wouldn’t kick off until I was done. Now, they do them on the sidelines, and it’s kind of lost.”

One of Alan’s favorite memories of being the Sparky is entertaining the people.

“My favorite memory was basketball," he said. "We defeated Oregon State who was number one at the time. They were 26-0. It was the last game of the season. I had bought an Oregon State t-shirt. It said 'Oregon State Number One' on the front, and on the back, it said '26-1.' It had the 1 underlined.”

He described how he displayed the shirt, and the crowd went crazy. They had to stop the game, and he got escorted into the locker room for fear he’d cause a riot.

Now, Alan Wald’s son attends ASU as a freshman.

“I love it,” Wald said. “I’ve been taking him since he was one year old. He’s familiar with being on the campus or seeing the stadium and going to the games. It’s fortunate because he’s comfortable knowing the campus. He knows a number of my friends that still live there and a number of people who work at ASU.”

1980's Sparky - Alan Wald from ASU Now on Vimeo.

His son, Kyle Wald, a business and sports media studies freshman, didn’t go to ASU just because it was his father’s alma mater.

“I was interested in business, and I know W. P. Carey is good,” Kyle said. “Going to games and stuff with my dad made me used to the campus, and I like it. It was a good fit, far enough away from home but still relatively close. (My dad) wasn’t pushing me to go here either.”

But, there are some perks from being a former mascot’s son.

“I get to meet people, like I’ve met some of the athletes,” Kyle said. “I like to hear all the stories about stuff he used to do. It’s an awesome thing for him.”

However, as of this moment Kyle doesn’t plan on following in his dad’s footsteps, regardless of the ecstatic response he said he would get from his friends and family.

Push-ups aren't the only Sparky tradition spanning back to the 1980's. Robert Spindler, an ASU archivist, said the identities of the 1980's Sparkies were also typically a secret.

“Sparky is the one and only performing mascot that represents Arizona State University athletics, a wide variety of events on campus and across the PAC 12,” Spindler said. “He is an icon for our institution in terms of the logo and the performing Sparky we see in the stadium. 

He said he's seen a long tradition of student performers who've donned the costumed, bringing spirit to students for decades.

“He represents the fighting spirit of its students,” Spindler said. “He’s been well-loved for decades. He’s an iconic celebrity. There’s a lot of joy and happiness there as well.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @alexa_buechler on Twitter.

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