March 8, 2007

10 Questions with Olivia Dwyer

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After listening to former Sun Sports Editor Olivia Dwyer’s demands for a year, former Assistant Sports Editor Paul Testa aims to get some revenge in this version on 10 Questions.

1. Can you tell me again why exactly we’re doing this?
Because I said so.
No, seriously though, what varsity sport did you play?
Uh… varsity cookie eating [Takes bite of half-moon cookie].
[Brushes off shirt] You’re quite good at that, although you haven’t quite mastered the talking while chewing part of it.
Sorry.
That’s all right.
It’s because I’m so excited.
I understand that 10 Questions lacks any sort of standards, but generally we try and keep the interviews to actual athletes.
Whatever, I’m your boss. You have to do what I say.
Not anymore.
[Eyes blazing]I’ll always be your boss.
[Whimpering agreement]

2. Fine. Let’s at least talk about some of the sports that you’ve covered, such as your first beat, fencing. Did you know anything about fencing, whatsoever?
I knew a guy on the club team so I put it down as a joke for a sport to cover. I was the youngest, most inexperienced person on the staff at the time and they didn’t think it was funny, they thought it was great that somebody actually wanted to cover fencing.
What was it like covering a relatively obscure sport?
It was great. The coach at the time was great. I think it was more that I didn’t know what I was doing yet so they probably got the short end of the stick because I was a bit shy and a little overwhelmed.
I can’t imagine you being either shy or overwhelmed.
There was a time.
Now you can be overwhelmed and you can be underwhelmed —
[Laughing] But can you ever just be whelmed?
I think maybe in Europe.

3. What has been your favorite sport that you’ve covered at Cornell?
There’s so many. I think it’s the teams that I’ve covered for more than one season just because you get to know people better. You know more about the history of the team and you have a better understanding of team dynamics. It’s just more fun to see them achieve; you’re more invested. I’d say volleyball, football, men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse — even though I only covered them one season.
If you had to rank these four teams in order of favoritist-ness, what would it be?
The volleyball team first. They’re tall and they’re winners which is a great combination, and I can’t rank the rest.
That’s completely unacceptable. You’re done. You can say whatever your want.
I’m a journalist. I’m completely objective. I don’t have favorites
You are a journalist, but you’re also a college kid and fan of sports. How tough is it to balance your duties as a journalist with your desire to be a screaming fan?
I’ve been willing to make that sacrifice of not being able to scream and cheer because I’m so interested in being able to see the other side of things, which is going to press conferences, talking to coaches during the week and as a regular fan you can’t get that. That’s been so exciting for me that I almost don’t mind not being in the stands.

4. [Staring] Let’s talk about your unique qualifications for being a sports editor.
Paul, you’re making me really uncomfortable.
[Still staring] Have those ever helped?
I think they’ve actually made people more uncomfortable than they’ve ever helped. It becomes uncomfortable as a female sportswriter when you’re covering a men’s team and you’re standing outside the locker room waiting to get quotes from somebody and you forget that people in the locker room might be changing after the game.
No way! You haven’t seen senior captain Byron Bitz’s bits.
No, but sometimes a door might open at an inopportune time. I’ve never seen full frontal or full back — which is fine I don’t need to go there — but I have seen various Cornell athletes maybe missing a jersey.
Did you like what you saw?
[Slyly] I mean, it’s part of the perks of the job.

5. You’ve covered Cornell athletics for four years now. What’s the current state of the athletics program and where is it headed?
I think we’re definitely on the upward swing. I think last year we won the most Ivy League titles we ever have with nine, and I still think there’s a possibility of maybe tying that this year.
I feel like the 1970s were maybe the golden age of Cornell athletics, though, with teams going to the NCAAs and the men’s hockey team winning national championships. Is that kind of success an anomaly?
I don’t think so. The men’s hockey team went to the Frozen Four the year before we were here. I think it’s easier for individuals, rather than teams, to achieve that kind of success. You see it with track athletes and swimmers who have been All-Americans. But you know the men’s lacrosse team has been on the cusp, as have the women’s team, so I don’t think it’s out of reach for us.
I don’t want to harp on this boobs thing, but do you feel like you’ve had to work harder as a sportswriter because you are a woman?
No, not necessairily. I think any difficulties are all in my head and I think it’s like — Stop staring at my boobs! — or it’s like when I notice something like that in an interview, which is not often because most coaches are much classier than you.
You made me do this, you pay the price.

6. You covered Ivy League basketball for two years. Do you think we need an Ivy League conference tournament?
I think we absolutely do. Regardless of the arguments in the past, the NIT just changed its rules so that any regular-season conference champion from any conference in the country that doesn’t get a bid to the NCAA tournament automatically gets a bid to the NIT. So even if the regular season Ivy champ got shut out in the conference tournament you’d still have two teams competing in the postseason and that can only be good for the league. It was so much fun to watch Syracuse’s Gerry McNamara at the Big East tournament last year.
You know what was even better? His commercials afterwards for those car dealerships.
But what I was going to say is that it’s so much fun to watch as a completely unbiased spectator on TV, imagine what it would be like if you were student at that school. One of the lasting images in my mind was the Army Cadets rushing the court last year after their conference tournament and carrying Maggie Dixon off with them. Don’t you want to be part of that?
Cornell fans have had few occasions to rush the court.
Once your team is out of the running for the Ivy League title it’s really hard to care and it makes you very bitter and disillusioned. If you can extend the hope of a fan for another few weeks, why not do it?
This whole argument rests on the assumption that people actually care about the NIT.
I say it’s a postseason tournament and who doesn’t want to play basketball for as long as they can?
Apparently Ron Artest doesn’t.

7. You covered men’s basketball junior Khaliq Gant’s injury, recovery and return to campus. Was that the hardest story you’ve ever had to cover?
I remember walking back with you after having talked to the Sports Information people the day after it happened. We both said, this is so hard because this isn’t why I joined sports. You join sports because you want to write about positive things: people achieving things, pushing themselves to the limit. When you have to cover something really hard and painful like death or serious injury — which unfortunately sports journalists at Cornell have had a lot of experience with over the past few years — it’s really difficult.
I think it’s really painful and it’s really tough because you don’t want to infringe on someone’s privacy when they’re obviously going through something really hard. But at the same time, people are interested and they care about the person. You just have to have faith in yourself that you want to tell this story so you can get it right and find out what is actually going on and get the right information out there. In the case of Khaliq, it was really tough in the beginning, but it became this great inspirational story and one of the defining moments of my Cornell experience because it was so special to be even the most peripheral, insignificant part of an experience like that.

8. Cornell doesn’t have a women’s football program, but if you were to play football what would be your favorite position? I could see you at either wide receiver or a defensive back.
I disagree. I’m not nearly fast enough for either of those positions.
I think you have the stamina for both.
Well, you may or may not know that I’m pretty excellent at intramural co-ed touch football and I know exactly what position I would play. I would be ether a defensive end or a linebacker because I am all about the sacks, baby.
[Laughing] You do love the “sacks.” Oh that’s beautiful.
Oh my God. I know that totally sounds like a sexual innuendo but that’s not what I meant. I just love defense. I love knocking down the quarterback.
It’s better than knocking up the quarterback.

9. You’re from Keene, N.Y., right?
You couldn’t find it on any maps, could you?
It makes Ithaca look like the South Bronx. How many of your high school friends are married?
One just got engaged over winter break. No one in my class has had children yet which is actually atypical.
I notice your left hand is unadorned.
My hand is bare.
That’s actually why we’re doing this interview.
[Gets down on one knee]
Will you marry me?
Oh yes, absolutely. Got to keep those Keene statistics up to date. Actually a girl that was in my class in middle school was married and divorced by the time I finished my freshman year at Cornell.
What would you say is the mullet ratio in your hometown?
It’s not so much mullets that are the defining feature of Keene.
Snowmobiles?
I think you have the wrong picture of Keene in your mind. Keene is definitely North Country. It definitely has its fair share of rednecks, but there’s also an intellectual community, if you will.
Yuppies don’t count.
Russell Banks lives up there. Writers, poets, musicians, Nathan Farb the photographer lives up there. Give me a break, man. We have culture. I mean maybe we open our beers with our teeth, but we still have culture.

10. I feel like you’re qualified to answer both sides of this question. What’s hottest women’s varsity team at Cornell?
Clearly the volleyball team and any guy that says differently is just intimidated by the fact they all look like gorgeous supermodels and have amazing legs.
But it’s weird when your girlfriend bends over to kiss you.
It works both ways, but if you’re talking pure aesthetics, you have to say volleyball.
I’ll tell you what’s hot about volleyball. The fact that they will dive all over a gym floor
Yeah, they’re amazing.
That’s not the hot part. They’ll do this in spandex, and then wipe up their sweat. To see a girl clean in spandex is the hottest thing in the world.
I hate you.
Fine, now give me your unbiased pick for the hottest men’s varsity team at Cornell.
I’ve been going back and forth on this.
Yeah, you have.
I think it’s really tough decision, but I’m going to have to say football. Football gets my vote. One of our columnists — the guy you have a huge man crush on — is on the football team, and he pointed out that they are the biggest team at Cornell and they have the most variety.
[Sighing] He is pretty dreamy.
Whether you’re into 6-7 offensive linemen or 5-8 wide receivers, they run the gamut. In making this decision, it’s the teams I’ve gotten to know really well. They’ll all great people, they’ve got great personalities and they’re fun to talk to. My very close runner-up is men’s lacrosse. It’s just a classy program. Every guy that I’ve spoken to on that team has been so great.

11. In an unprecedented turn of events, I’ve decided to add an 11th question. For the record, in a fight between you and I, who would win?
Me, every time. I’ve got the reach on you.
So you’re ready to arm wrestle then?
That’s not fair because boys have more testosterone and you’re going to beat me.
You have longer arms.
This is my weak wrist!
[Locking hands] Ready? 1-2-3 Go.
[Pins Dwyer like they were going steady]
Left hand?
OK.
[Pins Dwyer like an ATM card]
I have bonier elbows than you.
Are you even trying?
I’ve never been big on arm strength.
Do you want to kick me? I played soccer. I can take it.
Please. I’ll outrun you any day, and I could destroy you in basketball any time. Besides, I’ve kicked your butt numerous times, and the only time you knocked me down was from behind on that icy sidewalk in Princeton. My knee still hurts by the way.
I didn’t know you’d go down that easy.
That’s not going in the paper.

Paul Testa is a Sun Senior Writer. 10 Questions will appear every Thursday this semester, unless Olivia Dwyer tells him that he can’t write anymore. Comments and suggestions may be sent to pft4@cornell.edu.