April 20, 2006

10 Questions with Crew's Tyler Davis

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After a disastrous loss to Navy and Syracuse last weekend, junior heavyweight rower Tyler Davis worked on his stroke with Sun Senior Writer Per Ostman.

1. What’s your favorite Easter candy?

Anything with chocolate. I’m a chocolate fiend.

Is there something specific? For me, it begins and ends with Cadbury Eggs.

Yeah, it looks real, but it’s chocolate!

Right. It’s the best. But you don’t have a favorite?

Not like you do, I don’t think.

Hey, if you’re going to be passionate about something, candy isn’t a bad choice.

Yeah, it might as well be candy. Cadbury Eggs are pretty good, but as long as it has chocolate in it, I’ll eat it.

Do you favor a particular kind of chocolate?

Probably the darker chocolates. They’re a little more rich, more fulfilling.

And it pairs well with a nice red wine. Did you do the whole egg hunt thing as a kid?

You’re always excited to find the ones that don’t make noise when you shake them, because there’s money in them.

Yeah, open them up and there’s a check inside. Because apparently the Easter Bunny has a slush fund account at Chase Manhattan.

They’re the best.

How old were you when you found out that the Easter Bunny didn’t actually exist?

I guess it was freshman year when I was stuck here for Easter and he didn’t show up.

Maybe you forgot to leave a forwarding address.

That could have been it, actually. I’d never thought of that.

Slip your Ithaca address to Santa Claus over Christmas. They share an apartment.

2. You lost to Syracuse and Navy by roughly 18 seconds last Saturday. Excuse my emotion, but how in the blue [expletive] did that happen???

It was one of the darkest days in my rowing career, and I think that goes for everyone in the boat. We had the worst race we possibly could have had.

Did all eight of you have bad days at the same time?

That’s pretty much exactly how it went. Everyone’s weaknesses showed up at the same time. A race is the worst time for them to show up.

I know that the adverse conditions were an issue, but did the youth and relative inexperience of your boat come into play here?

I think you can probably place some of the blame on that. We have a lot of kids who don’t have a whole lot of years of rowing under their belts. We hadn’t actually raced a full-pressure 2000 meters at a high stroke-rate in that lineup. But again, it was just a bad day for everybody top to bottom.

How do you feel when you’re giving your maximum effort in a race like that and you’re still getting annihilated?

It’s incredibly discouraging. In the middle of the race, you’re just thinking, “okay, what am I doing wrong?” We could never pull it back together.

Well, you guys better figure things out quickly, because Princeton and Yale are coming to town this weekend for the Carnegie Cup.

Yeah, Princeton has proved to be untouchable so far. They just beat Harvard by four seconds. Yale is a competitive crew, too. They’re ranked higher than we are so far.

Will you be able to put last weekend’s gong show behind you and focus on the task at hand?

I think we want to remember what happened and make sure we don’t do it again. But at the same time, we do want to put it past us so we can focus on what’s ahead. I think we can show people that we’re much more competitive than last weekend proved.

Just so you know, the last time the Carnegie Cup was held here in Ithaca, we won. I mean, Cornell won.

Was that you guys?

Yeah. I’m just saying. It wasn’t close. Just so you know.

3. Because The Sun isn’t the White House Press Corps, I’m only allowed one agenda-laced softball question per year. So here goes: Why is rowing the greatest sport in the world?

It’s the greatest sport in the world, but for the right kind of people, I think. You’ve got to be slightly masochistic.

Slightly? How about “mostly?”

It’s true. You’ve got to love kicking your own ass, and getting out there and working hard. I think that makes it a great sport, because of how extremely dedicated you have to be.

And you can’t hide. You can’t take a day off, or not give a complete effort.

Exactly. It’s the ultimate dedication, and I think the epitome of teamwork. You can’t have one guy in the boat cop out and have the rest of the boat pick it up for him. One guy having a bad day reflects on the entire crew.

What about rowing makes you love it? Because it’s not something you can do if you don’t.

I love getting in the middle of a race and pulling my ass off, and hearing the guys behind me huffing and puffing. Everyone’s working together to make the boat go fast. Everybody’s hurting together, everybody’s sweating together.

4. You’re the “stroke” of the boat. For the uninitiated, what does the stroke do?

My job is to set the rhythm of the boat and make it easy for everyone else to follow and get the timing down. I just want to make it easy for everyone behind me to row their best.

Does this mean that you have the best stroke on the team?

Not necessarily.

But you have a pretty good stroke?

Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot I could be working on.

Do you rush it a little bit?

Yeah, I’m a bit of a rusher sometimes.

Well, you don’t want your stroke to be too quick.

It depends, I guess. At the lower ratings, you really have to be slow and deliberate. But then you get up to the higher ratings, and it gets more excitable. You start going quicker and things get rushed.

Yeah, and then you start having trouble handling the oar and keeping your blade in the water, and you don’t know what’s going on, and you can’t see …

It’s true. And then you just explode.

I understand that you have a ladyfriend, who just happens to also be a rower.

Yes, it’s crewcest.

Which one of you has the better stroke?

Well, me of course.

You do?

Undeniably.

What’s so bad about hers?

Nothing’s bad about it, it’s just that I have more experience.

Ah, I see. Does she know this? Have you talked about this?

It’s not a subject that comes up very often.

Because you really ought to make it your job to educate her. You know, for the good of the team.

I have been educating her. For a while. She’s more educated than most by now, I think.

Good for you.

5. Your coxswain is a girl.

That’s right.

How does it feel to take orders by someone who not only is small enough to eat for breakfast, but is also a girl?

There’s an understanding between coxswain and rower. When you’re in the boat, you listen to the coxswain because they’re the captain. But once you get back on land, you can exert your authority.

Which would you rather have – a man, or a woman?

As a coxswain?

Sure.

I’ve had more experience with girls.

As coxswains.

Yes. But sometimes, I think it’s better for guys to cox guys because they can exert a little more authority in the boat and get people to respond a bit quicker.

I can understand how intimidating it must be for a girl to try and handle you guys all at once.

There’s no getting around that.

6. I’m told that you have a unique talent. You’re a biology major, right?

Actually, it’s natural resources.

Okay, you’re going to be a professional hippie when you graduate. And that’s fine. But I hear that you do bird calls.

Well … uh … I mean, I know some bird calls.

Can we hear one?

Um …

Don’t act like you don’t know.

There are a few calls that I guess I could do that sound vaguely reminiscent of the bird itself.

Are you not very good, then? What’s so special about that? I mean, any schmo can yell “whooo, whooo” and sound like and owl.

I’ve called on owls before.

Then call one for me. Make something fly through the window and alight on your shoulder.

Alright. [Cups hands over mouth, and moans several times, emitting a sound vaguely reminiscent of practically anything but an owl.]

You’re just moaning into your hands. That’s not a bird call.

Yeah. I know.

Do you even know what you’re saying? Do you speak to the animals? And do they do your bidding?

I wouldn’t go that far, but I can get them pretty excited with certain calls.

Really? Have you considered animal husbandry as a double-major?

I will say this – you wouldn’t think so, but girls find them quite impressive, the bird calls.

I don’t know what kind of girls you’re hanging out with, but godspeed my son.

When word got around in high school that I could do bird calls, I would have girls flock to me regularly.

They probably just wanted to see if you were as big of a dork as they had heard.

Girls love dorks. It just takes them a while to realize it.

7. Bird-calling is just one of your talents. I also hear that you’re extremely flexible. Can you do a split for me?

Oh, I don’t know if I can do a split anymore. I mean, I’m pretty flexible, but I don’t know. I might hurt myself.

I want to see some sacrifice for this interview.

I’ll stretch and see if I can get that far.

I don’t want you to rip your pants or anything, but give it a shot.

Ok. [Hikes up shorts and immediately slides down into a full split. With ease.]

Holy Freaking God!

[Still in split.] This isn’t something I normally do. It feels kind of awkward.

Oh, really? Your scrotum shearing off at the seams? That feels awkward?

[Sits back down.] I don’t know, I’m a firm believer in stretching before and after practice, so I’m always stretching.

Yes, but a lot of athletes stretch. There are Olympians who can’t do what you just did.

My coach thinks it’s because I’m from the Pacific Northwest. I eat a lot of salmon, and it’s got certain properties.

That’s ridiculous. You don’t see many Kodiak bears doing splits.

No, but you do see them stretching all the time, like when they wake up from hibernating.

Let’s get National Geographic on this. This is a primetime special waiting to happen.

8. You’re probably the most well-traveled person I’ve ever met. How many different countries have you visited?

I think close to 30. Something like that.

Can you give us a rundown?

Well, I really love Africa so I’ve been to Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

What is it specifically about Africa that appeals to you so much?

I’m the tree-hugger type, or a bunny-snuggler, or whatever you want to call it.

You may hug trees, but has a tree ever hugged you back?

No, I’ve never been hugged by a tree. But as a kid, I was always watching The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Lions and cheetahs are totally cool. To go to Africa and actually see them is something that I really enjoy.

Do you ever get scared being so close to these vicious beasts? Or were there guys with shotguns in the jeep with you?

Yeah, there are usually guys with guns, just to be sure.

Guys with thundersticks. Did you cry at Bambi? Be honest.

I don’t think so as a kid, no, but the last time I watched it I did.

Yesterday?

Yeah. I understand what was happening on an emotional level now that I’m older.

Yeah, his mom gets shot.

No, I mean the natural resource destruction. It really hits me hard.

9. What’s your favorite band?

I was wondering if this was going to come up. It’s the Dave Matthews Band.

Really? Still? Is it 1997?

They’re not my favorite for the albums the produce, but for going to their live shows. For people that have been to a Dave Matthews Band concert-

I’ve been to a Dave Matthews Band concert – when I was 13!!!

So, you weren’t camping overnight with your friends or anything?

It was a stadium! Should I have pitched a tent in the south end zone or something?

The reason I got hooked on them was because of the concert at The Gorge in Washington State. It’s this sweet natural amphitheater. And it’s a huge campground for like 20,000 people. They did a live album from there.

Was that you at the end of the eighth track screaming, “I freaking love you, Dave!”

Yeah, you can probably hear it. The shows are such a blast.

But haven’t they nosedived over the past couple of years?

Some people would say that. They had those huge albums in the beginning that were so new to the rock world, integrating different kinds of instruments and styles –

I don’t know if that was new. Didn’t they just grab the baton from The Grateful Dead and start racing Phish for stoner/slacker jamband supremacy? I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about Radiohead or Nirvana here.

A lot of people have a misinterpreted opinion of them because their singles are songs like “Crash Into Me” and “Satellite.”

I agree that their best songs were never released singles, but I stopped listening when Dave started playing the electric guitar and they shortened all the songs to three minutes. I think that’s called “selling out.”

Yeah, that sucks, but they still put on great live shows.

Well, so does Garth Brooks, and he sucks too. Do you walk around saying, “man, I really need to be listening to Dave Matthews right now?”

No, but –

Because unless I’m trying to seduce a high school girl, I can’t think of a situation where I’d feel that way.

That’s probably true, actually.

10. What’s the hottest women’s team at Cornell?

Well, if I had my druthers –

And you do. That’s what this question is all about. Druthers.

I don’t think this is allowed, though. I only have one vote to allocate, right?

Yes, just one.

But there are like 16 or 17 girls teams, and they all have players that are pretty hot, you know?

Well, sure. Every team has its hot girls, but notice the qualifier “hottest.”

Then, and I feel like it’s a cop-out to say this because everyone’s said it, but it’s women’s track. It comes down to the ratio of hot girls to total girls on the team.

Finally. That’s what I’ve been trying to get at with this question – a total hotness quotient.

Based on that, it’s definitely women’s track. But I just feel like it’s a cop-out.

Me too. Do you know any of the girls? You don’t even have the excuse of seeing them run around campus. The boathouse is miles away from Barton.

Yeah, but I know some of them, and I know of some of them.

Really? You’ve heard stories?

I don’t know them personally, but it seems like they have the highest number of girls who are attractive. And you just can’t get around the fact that they’re going to have great bodies with all the running.

Everyone says that. This is like a recording. I’m glad it at least bothers you that you’re going with the most popular answer. Because you’re kind of a different guy.

I was hoping I could come up with a team that was overlooked somehow, but if we’re going for just the raw sex appeal of the team, then it’s women’s track.

Your girlfriend is reading this right now. How is she reacting to your answer?

Actually, she’s laughing to herself. We talked about this.

Oh, really? Were you under orders? Did you have to get clearance from the tower?

No, no. That’s not how it works.

What kind of man are you? Asking permission? Bah.

I didn’t say “permission.” I said we talked about it.

So you’re one of those guys who talk about his feelings and stuff.

We talk about things. Occasionally. And I asked her, from a guy’s perspective, what she would think. She said that if I thought the track team was the hottest, she wouldn’t hold it against me. So, she’s not upset.

So, according to the transitive property of conversation, we can infer that your girlfriend is attracted to the women’s track team?

I wouldn’t say “attracted,” but I think she’d agree with me.

Okay, but she thinks they’re hot?

[Several minutes of immature giggling.]

You’re okay with this, aren’t you?

Oh, more than okay.

Archived article by Per Ostman