April 1, 2004

Ostman Opens Bender's Brain

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Fighting off bronchitis, Sun Columnist Per Ostman braved the long journey across the hallway to interview housemate Chris Bender, the senior commodore of the men’s heavyweight crew.

1. As commodore of the Cornell crew, what is your most important responsibility?

Well, basically I have to provide a lot of leadership for the other guys on the team, help the younger guys learn to row, and keep everyone focused and enthusiastic. But my most important responsibility is to make sure that all the lunches make it on to the bus for road trips.

Here, here. This is why we elected you.

Damn right.

2. You have a twin brother who rows for Yale. Which of you is the “evil” twin?

He’d have to be the evil twin. All the Yale guys call me “Bizarro Bender,” so Scott would have to be the evil one.

All of you guys call him that.

Every chance we get.

Isn’t it true that your mother now refers to him as “Evil Bender?”

She does, yes. He’s the black sheep of the family.

So, if I hit you, will Scott feel it?

No, he – OWWW!!! Jerk.

3. Rowing has a lot of strange lingo. Tell the people what “catching a crab” is.

That happens when you get your oar stuck in the water and you can’t pull it out. So, have you ever caught any crabs?

I have, during my senior year of high school. I was stroking the varsity boat.

You know, they have ointments for that sort of thing.

Oh, word? Tight.

4. On no less than two occasions, you have been photographed wearing a dress. Explain yourself.

These were for the Schwartz Cup [the annual Cornell Crew skit competition]. I’ll do whatever it takes to win.

As I remember, there are several pictures of you running around in red paint and fake fur.

There may or may not be certain pieces of evidence depicting me half-naked as a wolf and Clifford the Big Red Dog, but that is neither here nor there.

5. What is the hottest women’s team at Cornell?

I am going to have to say the Geneseo women’s rugby team.

Stop making a mockery of this interview!

I have to put that in there. You know Ania, she’ll whack me.

I do know your girlfriend, who is lovely by the way, and she’ll whack you even harder if I tell her you’re screwing around and not answering my questions.

Ok. Hottest women’s team at Cornell? I’d have to say the women’s track team. I know you have a special …

Stop right there.

6. Would you rather have the strength of 100 men, the ability to fly, or the power of invisibility?

Well, since I already have the strength of 100 men, it would be futile to want something I’ve already attained.

I should just follow you around and do rim shots.

I’ll have to go with the power to read minds.

That’s not one of the options.

I know, but it would be really cool to know what other people are thinking.

Ok, what am I thinking right now?

That I’m a moron for not picking something on your list.

Wow, you’re good.

7. Explain the tradition of betting shirts.

That goes back to the 1800s when crews first began to race intercollegiately. The rowers would wear their team shirts out on the water and race in them. Afterwards, the boats would pull together and the losing rowers would give the winners the shirts literally off their backs as trophies. It’s evolved into something we do after the race with clean shirts on the dock, but it’s the longest standing tradition in collegiate sports.

What’s the favorite shirt in your collection?

That would have to be my brother’s Yale shirt.

It looks a lot better on you.

Yeah, I think so. I fill it out more.

8. Are you and I going bald? And if so, are we okay with that?

Well, I think you’re going bald faster than I am. But the stress of living with you is definitely making me lose my hair.

You’re an ass, you know that?

9. Besides rowing, you starred in basketball and tennis at the Malvern Preparatory School in Philadelphia. What made you choose crew?

There’s a surreal sensation that you get when rowing an eight [an eight-man racing shell] at top speed. It feels like you’re floating. Nothing else comes close to that. I’ve played all the sports, and nothing compares to the pure symmetry of eight rowers moving in perfect unison.

10. So, when are you finally going to clean our bathroom?

Yo, man. I’ve been cleaning it. You haven’t cleaned it all year.

What’s your point?

Archived article by Per Ostman
Sun Senior Writer