The man, the myth, the banana?

A look beneath the peel of WSU Banana Guy

WSU+Banana+Guy+Matti+Tenney+cheers+on+the+Washington+State+University+football+team+at+Martin+Stadium%2C+Saturday%2C+Oct.+16%2C+2021%2C+in+Pullman.

HAILEE SPEIR

WSU Banana Guy Matti Tenney cheers on the Washington State University football team at Martin Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Pullman.

NICK GIBSON, Evergreen Roots editor

On Sept. 2, Matti Tenney slipped on a banana suit— and slid right into the hearts of WSU fans across the country.

Tenney, better known by his alias WSU Banana Guy, has been front row at every home football game this season. From every seat in Martin Stadium, you can see his bright yellow suit in the student section: screaming at the top of his lungs, posing for pictures with his fans or hamming it up with Butch himself. 

The 18-year-old freshman from Eugene, Oregon has gained more notoriety than any other WSU fan since Popcorn Guy. Just like his soggy, popcorn-laden forefather, Tenney has become a viral sensation.

“I’m not used to it, I wasn’t popular growing up,” Tenney said. “I had like a couple people that I knew from school, but most of my friends were from work. Then I get here and like, a couple thousand people know who I am.”

Tenney said his rise to stardom was sudden. As he puts it, he had a banana suit lying around his dorm room and thought it would be funny to wear it to the game. He originally purchased the suit for the CougGlow Dance Party during Week of Welcome, but decided not to go after heavy rain and thunder forced the party inside. 

I did not feel like walking from Southside to the Compton Union Building in a banana suit just to be soaking wet, so I saved it,” Tenney said. “I was worried about embarrassing my roommate but he was actually out of town for the first game and I was like, ‘now’s my shot.'”

Tenney said he got in line for the Utah State game about an hour early and parked himself front and center in the student section. It did not take long for folks to take notice of his yellow attire. 

“Utah State players started filming me and laughing and then someone sent a video of me to Barstool Wazzu,” Tenney said. “People loved it and I was just like, ‘oh, wow, what the heck? This is a great idea.’ So I started an Instagram account right after the game and things kind of took off.”

As a marketing major, Tenney said he recognized immediately that WSU Banana Guy was something he could build on. His Twitter and Instagram account have nearly 900 followers combined, including Jayden de Laura, Max Borghi and WSU Pullman.

Tenney and his banana suit can now be seen all around Pullman. The WSU Banana Guy stickers Tenney passes out at games have been slapped on everything from street signs to Daily Evergreen news stands, and even the iconic purple W on University of Washington’s campus in Seattle. 

“Pullman’s great, I love the community,” Tenney said. “It’s getting weird because I’m starting to get recognized without the suit on, which is absurd. Before it was just like, this is me and this is banana guy. Now it’s starting to blur a little bit.”

Tenney’s love for college football comes from his upbringing, as he grew up in the center of Duck country— Eugene, Oregon. He said he played sports all throughout his childhood and often attended Ducks games growing up. His favorite part about attending games now is the trash talk.

“It’s just fun, you know?” Tenney said. “It’s fun to mess with opposing players because they’re used to getting heckled when they get on the field, but to be heckled by a Jewish banana? That’s something else. You can’t say that happens very often.”

Tenney’s rise to fame comes as no surprise to his mother, Devorah Bianchi. She said the folks who knew him growing up always expected something like this, albeit, minus the yellow peel.

I saw it coming a long time before that. We always said he was going to be the mascot, then we saw how much physical activity that entails and we were like, maybe he’s not going to be the mascot,” Bianchi said. “So the fact that he became the guy the mascot wants to get a picture with makes complete sense to me.”

Bianchi said Tenney was the kind of child who could walk right up to any adult, greet them and then converse with them like any other full-grown human. 

“He literally would go up to the principal or to other moms and dads and be like, ‘hey Michelle, how’s it going? How was that dental surgery you had last week?’” Bianchi said. “Or he would go up to the principal who was like 6 feet tall and he was a little kindergartner. He’d be like, “hey Larry, how are the wife and kids?’”

“That was Matti, so yeah, none of this surprises me. It’s just interesting how it manifested in a banana,” Bianchi said.

Bianchi said she follows his Instagram account and shares it with family friends when they ask how he’s doing. Tenney’s transformation into the sensation that is WSU Banana Guy makes sense to just about everyone she shows the Instagram account to. 

“I always thought Matti would either be a salesman or a politician because of his personable nature and his energy,” Bianchi said. “We told him to bring some stickers home and my husband’s gonna put them on his water bottle, you know? We love supporting him and watching this explosion.”

This week, Tenney finds himself in a precarious position as the Cougs take on the No. 3 Ducks for what will likely decide the champion of the Pac-12 North division. Tenney said he grew up a Ducks fan and has rooted for them every weekend thus far, as well as the Cougs. He said this week will be a difficult one for him.  

“I’m probably just gonna watch it with some friends,” Tenney said. “It’s gonna be tough either way; no matter who wins, I’m going to be sad. It’ll be a fun game to watch.”