November 15, 2007

10 Questions

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Before the men’s squash team’s pivotal three-match series this weekend against highly ranked foes UPenn, Princeton and Western Ontario, Assistant Sports Editor Lance Williams volleyed with senior Omar Mangalji. Sadly, Omar’s Blackberry did not survive the ensuing scuffle.

1. I’ve heard conflicting reports about where you are from, so give me a straight answer; where are you from?
I am from London, England.
And that’s your final answer?
Final answer. What else have you heard?
Well let me ask it this way, how many passports do you have?
Only two, an American passport and a Canadian passport. My mother is Canadian and technically so is my dad.
So why are you from London then?
Because I grew up there. I was actually born in the States but I moved to London when I was a baby. So England is home for me.
And your parents have British accents as well?
Yeah sort of. My mum’s is more Canadian. My Dad is more complicated because, for instance, when he is on the phone, you can tell what part of the world he’s on the phone with because he will adapt to that accent.
That’s impressive. Now speaking of accents, you have a slight accent yourself, how would you describe it?
Confused.
[Laughing]
Homeless and confused. I would say it is about eight parts English, two parts American, and a little Canadian.

2. When did you first get a Blackberry?
[Laughing] I think my claim to fame, and I hear you only get 15 minutes in your entire life, is being the pioneer of the social Blackberry.
What do you mean by that?
I mean that I had it when I was 17 years old.
That’s ridiculous. I didn’t know they were even invented back then.
They had just come out and were bigger than my palm. Now it’s all commercialized, you see kids running around with them all over the place.
Right, the kids these days, huh?
Yeah they have no etiquette. Of course, I’m being a hypocrite because I have terrible etiquette with it.
But as a 17 year old, you were a junior in high school, right?
Yeah, a junior at boarding school.
Wow, so you were like the coolest kid in school?
I’d like to think so, I don’t know whether people agreed.
[Laughing] Now it had all the Blackberry perks, like checking email and what not?
Yeah, actually it was very handy. It was a great way to keep in touch with my family because they are all over the place.
What’s the longest time you’ve ever been without a Blackberry?
I have gone two weeks without one and it was liberating.
Really?
You know, initially it was frustrating and upsetting and I was in withdrawal. I used to hold it in my hand hoping for it to work.
Oh that sounds terrible.
It was actually amazing, although I didn’t think it would be.
Would you say that you are the Blackberry king?
[Silence]
You know how there is Burger King. [Laughing] Are you the Blackberry king?
I’m honored that you would even ask me. I don’t think I am, but I would challenge anyone to a Blackberry key board race …
I would like to see that, just for comedy.
Hopefully with the amount of practice I have, I would be able to cream anyone.
From what I’ve heard, I’ll take 2-1 odds on you all day long. Would you play a match with it in your left hand?
No, I would not.
I heard from a certain teammate that if you could have the Blackberry in the left hand and cruise around the court, you would probably do it.
[Laughing]
Hey man, that’s called multi-tasking.
You’re right, it’s the way of the future.
That’s what I’m saying. And you would be revolutionizing not only the world, which apparently you already have, but also the squash arena.
Unfortunately, squash is one of those games where you sort of need to concentrate.
I don’t believe you.
It’s also kind of a dangerous sport. Balls are flying everywhere; limbs get knocked off, that type of thing.
Limbs get knocked off?
Oh, yeah. No, not quite knocked off but you can get hit with the ball and the racquet. And frankly, I would fear for my precious Blackberry’s life; it would probably get hit.
Have you ever gotten hit in the junk before?
[Laughing] I haven’t. I’ve been hit in the nose, both legs, arms, really just all over.
So you don’t wear a cup?
No, that would really hinder movement.
I’ll give you that, but I might like the extra protection and the extra peace of mind.
And I could put my Blackberry in there.
Exactly, that’s what I’m saying!

3. Let’s talk about your infamous beard. When did you first start growing it?
I think it was around the same time as I got my Blackberry; it was when I was becoming a man.
You did become a man, if I may say so.
Thank you.
Junior year in high school, you officially became a 45 year old.
[Laughing] Well, I have the beard and the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the Blackberry to prove it.
So why did you start growing it?
It was more of an accident that anything else. I got my wisdom teeth out and I couldn’t shave for a couple of weeks. I was all puffy and looked like a chipmunk. Plus without a beard, I look like I’m six years old, so I looked like a six-year-old chipmunk. I decided that I kind of liked it, and have stuck with it since.
When was the last time you shaved it?
It was New Year’s Eve my senior year of high school and it was one of the worst moods I’ve ever been in.
Because you shaved?
Yeah, I was very depressed. I get very attached to my hair.
Wow, I’m getting uncomfortable. So you’re very fond of your own hair. I assume then that you do some serious man-scaping?
I think in this day and age, you have to keep it somewhat kempt. Especially if you want to try to enter the real world.
Which you already have.
[Laughing]
This also might be uncomfortable but for whatever it’s worth, I like it.
Thank you. I think you should grow one yourself; it does wonders for the social life.
No, I don’t think I could. I heard you can be somewhat sensitive about it, though. Do you let other people touch it?
Of course.
Lady friends?
Of course.
I feel like that can be a big pick up for you?
You know, not many other people have it, so it can definitely be a competitive advantage in this market.

4. And that goes beautifully into my next question — do you think you’re a 45-year-old trapped in a 22-year-old’s body?
Sometimes I feel that way. Especially after a three hour practice.
Why’s that?
My body hurts: the back goes, the legs and knees get a little tough. I don’t really know how to answer that actually.
Well, you already did.

5. Any nicknames on the team that you might have?
Nicknames on the team? I’m not really sure.
Want me to throw some out at you?
Yeah.
OK, how about “grandma?”
Never heard that one.
Never? What? Is this kid making it up?
Maybe.
It’s amazing how many suggestions I get that turn out to be fraudulent. But this kid said you are grandma because of what we were just talking about, with you being somewhat fragile.
I’ve never heard that one.
[Laughing] And you don’t seem very happy about it.
No, I will accept any nickname as a term of endearment. I appreciate that a teammate would care enough about me to make it up.
Maybe going forward, you can go by grandma?
Sure, I think we could put that in my official introductions.
Another one that I heard was, “You’re the busiest person in the world with nothing to do.”
I haven’t heard these.
Well do you believe that this claim is true?
What do any of us do? We’re college students.
Right, but you apparently do much more than most college student. Just in the sense that you have all of these sketchy meetings, conference calls, dinners, committees. What the hell is all this stuff?
Now, I know that this is coming from someone who is not on the team. I do certainly like to keep myself busy; I’m lucky that I am involved in a lot of things on campus.
For instance?
I’m in Alpha Kappa Psi [business fraternity] …
What kind of committees are you on?
I sit on a fundraising committee for my old school and the annual fund advisory board for that school as well. Those might be the sketchy meetings you were referring to.
Are they real?
They are real and I guess they do render me a 35-year-old because I am very young compared to most members of these committees. I try to lead a double life.

6. I’ll have to admit, this one kind of intrigued me. Did you ever play on a pro ping pong tour?
Before I came to school in the States, I was on England’s Under-12 National Table Tennis team.
That’s amazing.
I play squash with my right hand, but play table tennis with my left. I refused to play tennis or squash with my left hand because it would ruin my table tennis technique.
So you’re ambidextrous?
In a way, yes. I used to train everyday for two hours playing table tennis. I used to have a coach and had a machine which spat balls at me to train with.
I’m not really sure what to say to that. How did you grip the paddle? I’ve seen people who go upside-down …
That’s the chopstick grip. Yeah it’s very popular in Asia.
I could have told you that. What do you focus on?
I play more of an attacking game, putting one finger behind the back of the paddle and using topspin.
I’ve seen some crazy ass ping pong matches in my day. Have you ever gotten into that Forrest Gump type match where they are just wailing away at one another?
I think Forrest Gump was a little bit of an exaggeration.
No, I’ve seen some real matches on TV that were insane, guys jumping over barriers and what not.
They get very crazy. They can stand 10 to 15 feet back from the table and just whale on it.
Exactly.
And what you don’t realize is that the amount of spin they are generating on every shot is unfathomable.
Could you beat anyone at Cornell in ping pong?
You know what, I’m subject to a burnout. I started playing when I was 12 and don’t really play much anymore.
That’s upsetting.
I think I would still be competitive though. They can bring it on.

7. Let’s talk about the squash team for a little. You guys are currently No. 9 in the nation, which is very competitive compared to the rest of Cornell’s teams, let’s be honest …
[Laughing] Yeah, I read your article this morning about that.
And you have a big match coming up this weekend, so can you tell the readers about it?
Yes, we have our big home opener this weekend, which is against Penn Saturday morning, Western Ontario Saturday afternoon and Princeton on Sunday.
OK, so why is this a big deal?
Because Western is one of our closest competitors; we’ve historically had a heated rivalry with them. So we’re hoping we’ll get a win over them this weekend and move into the top-8 in the rankings.
Can you beat all three teams?
Princeton is vying for No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation, so they are going to be tough.
Well what is your actual prediction for this weekend?
Realistically, I don’t want to blow smoke up your ass …
This is 10 Questions, go bold man.
I like this, I can get used to this. And I could hold my Blackberry in one hand just to feel comfortable here.
I might have a problem with that.
I’ll say we’re going to be relatively competitive with Penn, although we’re the underdogs. But they are coming to our house and to our courts, so I think we can do some damage. I think we can definitely beat Western and Princeton is going to be very good, so we’re just going to give it our all.
That was a very political answer. And for the season? Give me a number, no more of this cliché nonsense.
I would like to say that we would hope to finish around No. 7 this year.
Is there some incest going on between the squash teams?
No comment.

8. Have you ever been to Ithaca College?
I have.
What was that experience like?
I was just giving a friend of a friend a ride.
Did you happen to have an experience with a young lady at I.C.?
I may have.
Tell me about that?
You know a lot of college is just a haze – a drunken haze.
I’ll be honest, I don’t see you as the type of kid in a drunken haze every night.
OK, well I do remember something to do with a girl from I.C. I think it was my second year at college. I was seduced, I’m a victim here.
I believe it.
And I had no idea she was from IC. When she told me in the morning, I couldn’t do anything but give her a bus schedule to go back.
[Laughing] You didn’t want to drive her?
I had practice; I’m a dedicated collegiate athlete.
Right, what are you going to do? How was the experience overall?
I don’t remember. Probably not that good.

9. This also bothered me, do you drink just hot water?
I do drink hot water with a lemon. It’s just like cold water with lemon.
[Laughing]
Just a little warmer. You know it is cold in Ithaca, I need to warm up.
OK, so why not drink tea for instance? You are British.
I do drink tea as well. But I am very adamant about drinking hot airborne. Two airborne’s and hot water is a great drink.
Interesting.

10. Who is the hottest women’s team at Cornell?
I think it has to go to the girl’s squash team.
But you said no comment to my incest question.
Well, I do have to share a bus with them, so it would be smart for me to say them.
It would be smart, but it that your true opinion?
You know, our practice facility is quite a ways out from everyone else, so we don’t really see any other female athletes.
I see.
We do see some women occasionally in the weight room. … And I’m not going to go with them.
[Laughing]
I’m going to stick with girls squash and tennis. We see them the most and it is all about personality.

10 Questions with Lance Williams will appear every Thursday unless Lance purchases a Blackberry and becomes infatuated with Brick Breaker. All complaints or suggestions contact lwilliams@cornellsun.com