S. Jersey native stars in 'Behind the Mask'

That's Collingswood native Jon "Jersey" Goldman working up the crowd as UNLV mascot Hey Reb.
That's Collingswood native Jon "Jersey" Goldman working up the crowd as UNLV mascot Hey Reb.
Posted: October 30, 2013

* BEHIND THE MASK. Premieres today at Hulu.com and on Hulu Plus.

JON "Jersey" Goldman doesn't need Halloween to dress up. If there's a team or cause that needs a mascot, he's there.

"I've been cows, sharks, Superman," said Goldman, whose stints as a mascot began at Collingswood (N.J.) High School - where he was the Panther for a couple of years, before graduating in 2007 - and included a tour of duty as Finley the Rivershark (and sometimes Mr. Trash), with the Camden Riversharks.

But it's Goldman's six years as a mustachioed fellow known as Hey Reb, mascot for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas' Rebels, that caught the attention of director Josh Greenbaum, who made Goldman a subject of his new Hulu series, "Behind the Mask."

Others include a high-school mascot in Lebanon, Pa.; a minor-league hockey mascot based in Wilkes-Barre who longs for a shot at the NHL; and the Milwaukee Bucks' daredevil known as "Bango." Mascots are generally quiet, but it's hard to match Goldman for sheer verbal velocity once the giant head comes off.

"I loved the Riversharks, but Hey Reb has been a crucial part of my life," he told me, after a Hulu press conference in Beverly Hills this summer.

And he so enjoyed his time at UNLV - sometimes dubbed "The University of Never Leaving Vegas" - that he took his time about graduating, assured of his ongoing scholarship.

Yes, mascots get scholarships.

"The reason why I knew mascots could go to school on a scholarship was because of the St. Joe's Hawk," he said. They met at a Riversharks game, where the Hawk "never stopped flapping his arms. I'm like, 'What are you doing?' and he's like, 'I can't stop. It's part of the scholarship.' "

Determined to get one for himself, he'd applied to schools all over the country and, finally, he told reporters, he "just picked up everything from Jersey, drove across country two days before school started and bugged the hell out of everybody until they let me be the mascot."

He'd shown a similar drive with the Riversharks.

"My dad was a season ticketholder. I was supposed to be a batboy and the batboy lady didn't get back to us. So the [general manager] was like, 'Well, I'll do you one better. Do you want to be on the promotions team?' And the first day I wanted to be Finley, the Rivershark. So they let me hop into [the suit]. They were like, 'Why do you want to do that?' There were like six people in the stands, it was an exhibition game, there's not even an opponent - it's just the players. I was like, 'Let's try it out.' "

Whether Goldman, who was filmed sleeping in class at UNLV, managed to graduate with his hoped-for degree in communications is part of the story of "Behind the Mask," but there's no question he needed the sleep.

"When I came, there was a very small amount of community involvement [with the UNLV mascot] and then four years later, I was rappelling down the side of a hotel for the Special Olympics in the mascot suit, doing parades. Breast-cancer awareness stuff is one of the biggest things I'm about," said Goldman who seems to have worked at least two other jobs, including one as a radio DJ.

"I work overnight and then I'll go to games. And then I'll do appearances and then I'll do elementary schools and then class and then right back at it," he said.

Two years ago, "I had a seizure while I was in the suit and they came back and said, 'You're exerting a lot of energy when you're in this, your brain is obviously on fire.' " He said he's trying to take better care of himself.

"You have to be in shape. I eat horribly, but when you get in the suit, you lose 20 pounds the first five seconds."

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

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