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He’s Got Wings

Clarice Staffer Takes Flight as D.C. United’s Talon the Eagle

By Sala Levin ’10

Talon

Courtesy of D.C. United

Courtesy of D.C. United

By day, Reuven Goren is the scene shop coordinator at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, overseeing the crews who assemble sets for productions. But for much of March through October, Goren spends his off-work hours parading through RFK Stadium, leading cheers, kicking soccer balls with youngsters and urging D.C. United fans to dance like fools on the Jumbotron—all while wearing a tight-fitting, heavily-eyebrowed eagle costume.

ReuvenThe costume’s not just for kicks: For the past 13 years, Goren has played Talon, D.C. United’s mascot.

He first donned a mascot’s head in high school when no one else would put on a tiger costume after it got soaked during the rainy homecoming parade.

“It was one thing,” Goren says. “I was done, I didn’t think of it ever again.”

He later worked as a T-shirt shooter for the Washington Capitals and occasionally played villainous mascot foils to the Capitals’ Slapshot in promotional videos. But it wasn’t until several years later that his buddy, who played the hockey team’s giant eagle, called him with a question that changed his life: “What are you doing today?”

The friend was on his way over with the mascot costume in the car and the plan of having Goren wear it because the regular Talon—another acquaintance—was unavailable.

Since then, Goren has been promoted from fill-in to regular. He thinks of Talon as a character with his own personality.

“He’s a pretty fun and carefree character,” he says. “He’s a bit of a goofball, but not as much as you’d normally expect from a mascot. Talon wants everybody to feel like they belong. Sometimes he’ll get a little flirty with someone, but it’s universal. If everybody in the stands is making a big deal about Talon hugging a girl, Talon will turn around and hug the boyfriend also.”

The job has its challenges. Staircases can pose a logistical difficulty, and sometimes Goren will encounter fans who “don’t know how to handle the no-talking” rule, which he breaks only in case of emergency, like the time a child became lost in the stadium and approached Talon, the closest thing to a safe adult available. But even in that case, “I won’t talk to the kid, because I don’t want to shatter the illusion of being a giant cartoon character.”

What Goren loves most about the job, though, is its “therapeutic” aspect. “Everybody wants a hug or a high-five or a picture. I can be in the worst mood ever and no one will ever know it, and it’s very hard to stay in a bad mood when you’re getting hugs from everybody.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.