February 21, 2008

10 Questions with Joshua Goldstein

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Before the men’s tennis team traveled to Michigan for a big weekend against two ranked foes, Sun Assistant Sports Editor Lance Williams took some shots at junior Josh Goldstein.

1. What’s it like to be on the team without last year’s senior co-captains Nick Brunner and Josh Raff?
It is definitely very different.
Would you say they are the real-life version of the ambiguously gay duo?
No comment. But I would say that Raff’s mom is convinced that the two of them kissed on the cheek after a huge comeback victory against Princeton my freshman year.
Tell me a story.
Well, they just finished out a 23-4 doubles season after the huge comeback. They were one of the top doubles teams in the nation, and I think they were going for a chest bump. But in a picture, it looks like they are very close with a possible kiss on the cheek.
Nice. What else did they do on the team?
They were in charge of the pre-match rap, which made a big difference in our performance.
Sure, team morale. It’s a big factor.
When we played Dartmouth my freshman year, I distinctly remember that this kid on Dartmouth, who was one of their top doubles players, came over after the rap. He was actually playing Raff and Brunner at No. 1 doubles, and he said, “Dude, that s— was fly, I loved it.”
He said quote, “That s— was fly?” That’s questionable.
Yeah, and pretty much at that point, I knew that we were going to destroy them.
You’re saying he was intimidated by the rap?
Yeah, exactly. And if he wasn’t a senior, we definitely would have given him a cameo in the rap the following year, which would have been unprecedented.
That’s unheard of. I’m not sure that’s within NCAA regulations.
I would have liked to see what would have happened. I think Raff and Brunner made history in a lot of ways, but that may have been the most significant.
Keeping it serious to start out, do you guys have any big matches coming up which that the Cornell population should know about?
We’re heading to Michigan this weekend to play Michigan St. and Western Michigan.
Michigan? That’s never good.
Yeah, we have a 6 a.m. flight out of Ithaca.
I hope it’s indoors.
Yeah, it’s indoors, which is our specialty. They will be two big matches though. They are both ranked teams, so hopefully we’ll knock them off and get into the rankings. Our team philosophy that I’ve tried to establish since I was a freshman started when Ron Artest was coming back from his suspension …
[Interrupts] Oh God. A Ron Artest mention in the first five minutes.
He’s a big part of our team philosophy.
[Laughing] Ron Artest? The same guy who stormed into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills?
I don’t condone that, but he was coming back from his suspension and they were televising his first game back. At a halftime interview they asked him what it was like to be back and he said, “Listen man, I’m just trying to win this game.”
[Laughing] I wish everyone could have heard that southern accent.
It’s pretty tough to do a good “Ron Artest.”
I think you made it happen, man.
So that’s our philosophy, we don’t really pay attention to rankings or records. We try to have Artest’s approach to every match. We’re just trying to win that game.
But my question is why are you looking to Ron Artest for inspiration?
You know, it just happened. Some of the great things in life you don’t really see coming, and Ron Artest was definitely one of them.
Quick question, how many rap albums did your boy Artest sell?
[Laughing] I wouldn’t know that. I appreciate his work only as a basketball player.
I always ask for predictions. Will your guys win the Ivy League?
Our goal is definitely to win an Ivy League championship, and I won’t be satisfied with anything less. But I don’t believe in making predictions; our team is about doing our talking on the court. We are an extremely competitive team from top to bottom, we’re the hardest-working, hungriest team in the League, and I know we’re capable of winning it all.
Fair enough, way to skate around the question.

2. What’s it like having Brunner as a coach?
It’s been great. He’s made a very smooth transition to coaching. I think he’s a natural.
Does he still mess around a lot as a coach?
[Laughing] No, not nearly as much. Sometimes it’s hard for him to keep a straight face, but he gets it done.
How did he get that job after making fun of [head coach Barry] Schoonmaker so much with me last year when I interviewed him?
He’s the man, what can I say? He’s brought his innate understanding of the game to the team this year.
Him and Schoon are a nice tandem, a little fire and ice maybe?
Yeah, they complement each other well.

3. I’ve been perusing your profile on cornellbigred.com, and the first thing I noticed is that you look very angry in your picture. What’s the deal with that?
It wasn’t my intention.
I’ve known you for a while, and you’re a happy kid. So why did you choose to look like a serial killer in your picture?
I’m sure the other teams scout me out online before a match. They probably think to themselves, “Who is this Goldstein kid, he doesn’t sound like much.” And then they see the picture, and that I have let my beard grow out a bit and that I probably haven’t combed my hair because I don’t own a comb.
And that you’re scowling.
Yeah, so I just thought, how can I strike fear into the hearts of my opponents?
So it’s an intimidation tactic. You’re messing with their minds before they ever even step onto the court with you. Was that a conscious decision?
I think it just kind of happened. But I want to win at all cost, so if that means I have to sacrifice a few teeth in the picture, then that’s what I’m going to do.

4. I wanted to go in another direction this early in the interview, but because of the overwhelming responses that I got regarding this question, I had to go for it. How often would you say you talk to your girlfriend on road trips?
[Laughing]
Why are you laughing?
I like hearing the sound of her voice.
Wow, Goldstein doing work through 10 Questions.
One of my proudest accomplishments at Cornell is being in a packed 15-passenger van, having an hour-long conversation with my girlfriend, and have no one in the van hear one word of what I say. It’s kind of a trademark voice that I switch to.
A little whisper.
Yeah, and she seems to be able to understand it and no one else [can]. I also don’t really notice that everyone is around.
You get into the zone.
Yeah, there’s also a lot of tennis application because to “grind” means to just refuse to quit or lose. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your game or not, you’re just battling out there.
So the word on the street is that you “grind” with your girlfriend at 3 a.m.
Well, hopefully it’s not 3 a.m. because I need my beauty sleep before a match. But let me just say right now that she is my No. 1 fan. And I should say happy anniversary to her by the way. Today is our two-and-a-half year anniversary, so that needs to be in there.
You are just racking up points here. I wasn’t aware you should even celebrate half-year anniversaries. I struggle with remembering full-year ones.
She’s come a long way in terms of understanding the game and appreciating the merits of tennis.

She didn’t respect it at first?
Yeah, I think, like most people, she didn’t respect it at first. But like most people who come out to our matches, they see the intensity and earn an appreciation for it. But now she is a tennis addict.
And a Goldstein addict.
I hope so.
Would you say that the low girlfriend voice you were talking about is considered sweet nothings?
Sweet nothings?
I’m just throwing it out there.
Sometimes it can be sweet nothings, I guess.
Have you ever made the team late because you were talking to her at 7 a.m.?
No, I don’t recall any instance of that at 7 a.m.
Really, how about 7:30?
I can multitask on the phone so if I was running late it was probably because [sophomore Jon] Fife slept through the wake-up call or something.
Yeah, that makes sense to me. Blame it on Fife. F-ing Fife, every time.
And another likely explanation is that [senior captain] Weston [Nichols] is either having a protein shake or in the bathroom. That’s usually why we’re late, so I might be the scapegoat, which I’m fine with, but I just wanted to say that.
The infamous Weston Nichols.
Speaking of which, can I tell a story about him?
Go ahead.
On Spring Break last year, we had a 4:00 a.m. bus to Syracuse and we decided as a team beforehand that no one can be that guy who is late because it was already bad enough to have a bus at four in the morning. And we said beforehand that each minute you’re are late, each player on the team gets to hit a serve at you while kneeling down on the service line.
This sounds intriguing.
There are 10 guys on the trip. So it’s like 4:06, Wes is nowhere to be found and he’s not picking up his phone. Two minutes later, he calls us and says that he has lost track of time while he was hooking up with this girl that he had pulled that night. They were mid-hookup, he hadn’t finished packing for the trip and he was like, “Holy shit, what am I going to do?”
So he was in a world of hurt?
Yeah, he eventually gets there at like 4:28, and each guy on the team got to hit 28 serves at him.
That’s unbelievable. It actually happened?
Yeah, on Spring Break, the first day we were there.
Did you connect?
Some people connected in a big way.
Not cool.
But if you were to ask him, I don’t think he would have changed anything about it.
He was enjoying being bent over and having balls smacked at him?
I think he was enjoying being bent over the night before.
[Laughing] Nice, I’ve got you.

5. Would you say that you are the slowest player on the team?
No, absolutely not.
Not to name any names, but some reports have said that you are.
Complete fabrication, did Jon Fife tell you that?
Surprisingly enough he did not.
Who told you that?
I can’t reveal my sources. That’s part of the deal.
I think people are threatened because I’m the best distance runner on the team. I’m certainly not the fastest, but I never give up on the ball. I’ll run that baby down. I don’t care where I have to go to do it.
Is that what he said?
[Ignoring] In fact, if you want to see my bruise from Penn St. when I dove for the ball, you are welcome to.
I appreciate that, but I’m good. I do believe you though.

6. We had a big bet last year and have another one this spring. Do you want to say what that bet was?
Last year you bet me that I couldn’t eat two full pastas from Wegmans in half an hour.
And you put me to shame.
Yeah, I just wanted the free food. It wasn’t for monetary gain. It was just for the cost of the pastas.
True.
You know, I was confident going into it and I don’t want to make you feel bad about the results of it but …
Well, I do feel bad. I thought you were going to boot towards the end of the session, but in true Goldstein fashion, you pulled through. Schoon doesn’t call you mentally tough for nothing.
Let’s just say I’m confident I can eat three.
OK, so this year it is three whole pastas in 45 minutes. This is on the record, so let me just say this, there is no chance three is going to happen. I don’t want to doubt you, but it just doesn’t make any sense. I can barely eat one!
I watched a lot of WWF when I was younger, but one thing I never picked up from them was the trash-talking before a match. So we’ll settle this in the ring.
I will say this, you are a ferocious eater.
Yeah, I can go all day.
When did that start? When did you say to yourself, “Man, I can eat a lot”?
I don’t know, probably when my mom packed me lunches for school and I easily finished that one and started eating everyone else’s lunch.
And the thing is you’re not a big guy.
I don’t know where it all goes.
You must take some monstrous deuces.
[Laughing] Let’s just say my coach in high school referred to it as the pre-match ritual. Bill Russell used to throw up before every game. I just like to make sure that I am light on my feet. I hope the Athletic Director reads this by the way.
Oh he definitely will. He’s my biggest fan.
Speaking of the ritual, the bathroom is not ventilated at Reis [Tennis Center]. And during tournaments you get like eight teams up there.
How many stalls are we talking about?
Two, we need FEMA in there.
That’s ugly.
Yeah, it is not a good situation.
That could play into the intimidation though.
If you want to talk about bad smell, [junior] Kyle Doppelt and Weston love their protein regimen, so they have taken smells to the next level. They take a lot of pride in being the smelliest team in the Ivy League.
That’s a nice image for all those Big Red tennis fans to hold onto.
You know, that’s just part of our style. We just go out there and play. We don’t worry about anything else.

7. Reports are that you have the nastiest feet in the Ivy League. Care to defend yourself?
That is absolutely true.
Can I get a sneak peak?
You don’t even want it man.
[Laughing]
I’m an athlete. I have my priorities.
Do you clip the toenails at least?
Yeah, sometimes. Wow, you really got some inside information here.
Yeah, that’s what I do.
You are way inside. I am wondering where the hole in the locker room is. But I don’t seem to worry about those kind of personal maintenance issues.
What does your girlfriend think about them? Does she enjoy them?
She definitely doesn’t enjoy them. She puts up with a lot from me.

8. Any good Schoonmaker lines for me?
[Laughing] My favorite Schoon line is when we are on a jog, he likes to shout at us, “Your bodies will hold up.”
I could imagine that really motivates guys out there.
God bless him though, he always has the best intentions in the world. I’ll put that out there.
I will not argue with that. He’s an animal.
He is an absolute beast. He has this 30-minute bike workout that he does at least three times a day.
Wow.
I couldn’t imagine playing for a fat, old coach who always makes you run. Schoon will run two miles with the team and beat half the guys.
Have you ever played him?
No.
Do you think you can beat him?
Yes.
[Laughing] A confident yes.

9. Are you Josh No. 2 or Josh No. 1?
I’m sorry to say that I’m Josh No. 2.
And what is the story behind that?
Josh Raff and I played a challenge match last year, and the loser had to refer to the winner as Josh No. 1 the rest of the season. And he kicked my ass.
That hurts. Has there been more than one challenge match?
Only played one official one. I would never lose to him ever again, but that’s probably because he hasn’t touched a racquet since the Princeton match last spring.
Them’s fighting words. I can already see Raff coming down here for round two.

10. The last question is always the same. What is the hottest women’s team at Cornell?
I knew this was coming, but I never really thought about it. [Five second pause]
This is a struggle.
It’s tough to evaluate girls when you’re working out alongside them.
I see, everyone’s sweaty and whatnot?
I just think I am too focused on my lift, and my girlfriend.
Of course, but you can still judge attractiveness.
I’ve got to follow after my assistant coach’s lead and be diplomatic. So I’m going to go with women’s tennis. They had a big win over Syracuse last weekend, and I think they’re going to have a great season.
What does that have to do with them being the hottest?
Umm, nothing.

10 Questions with Lance Williams will appear every Thursday unless coach Schoonmaker comes after Lance with a racquet. Lance can be contacted at lwilliams@cornellsun.com