May 5, 2004

Note to Self for Last 10 Questions

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After 10 weeks of “10 Questions,” Sun senior writer Per Ostman sits down with varsity rower (emeritus) Per Ostman.



How are you doing?

I’m okay, thanks. Yourself?

Just fine.


Shall we get started?

After you.


1. So, what the hell is up with your name, anyway? Is it foreign? Or did your parents just want to doom you to a childhood of insults?

Ha. A little from Column “A” and a little from Column “B.” “Per” is Scandinavian.

Swedish, if I’m not mistaken?

That’s right. I’m told that it’s quite a common male name over there, like “John” is here. Professors always butcher it, though.

What’s the worst attempt someone has made at pronouncing it?

I mostly hear stuff like “Par,” or even “Pierre.” What I really hate is when people think it’s coupled with my middle name — my first name is not “Per Michael.” My high school administration still thinks it is.

Not a fan of Jan-Michael Vincent?


Forget it.

2. You don’t look like the typical rower, so why —

What? Are you calling me fat?

No, I —

Cause I’m not fat! I’m just thick.

I’m sure you are, but —

No, really. Go ahead. Hit me, I’m as hard as a rock.

I’m not going to hit you.

Why not? You some kind of sissy? Don’t have the stones to back it up? Sit down and put your shirt back on.

3. Seriously, now. Why did you decide to walk onto the rowing team?

I ran track and cross-country in high school. I broke my back in seventh grade, so I couldn’t wrestle or play football anymore. I was a little too “thick” —

Not “fat,” right?

Right. Just “thick.” I was too thick to run in college, but I still wanted to compete. I figured I had a shot at rowing since they take a lot of walk-ons. I sent the freshman coach a really stupid e-mail during the summer before I came to Cornell, trying to give him my athletic background in the hopes he’d take me. I described myself as a “mach-5 brick wall.” I don’t think he’s stopped laughing.

Has anyone called you a “dork” before?

Yes, actually. Why?

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

Invisibility would be cool, because there are definitely some people on this campus that I’d like to see naked.

I’m not even going there. You realize that this interview is getting published, right?

I think flying would be the best choice, though. If I could fly, I wouldn’t have to bother about my car always getting towed.

Is this a recurring problem?

Yeah, it just happened again yesterday.

Don’t you pay attention to signs?

Hey, it’s not that easy to find parking on this campus. I don’t have any quarters for meters, because the quarters go to laundry. I just think the people at the Admissions Office have it in for me.

You park in the Admissions lot?

Yeah, it’s right beside my house. And it’s NEVER full. Never. I don’t think they like me.

I can’t imagine why.

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

That’s kind of a sexist question, don’t you think?

Not really, I ask everyone this question. Males and females.

Ok, then. If you say so.

Come on, who’s the hottest?

Well, that really depends on your definition of “hot.” I think we’re all attractive in our own way …

You’re stalling.

No, really. Each women’s team has its own appeal. If you’re a guy who has a thing for tight legs and butts, you’ll go with the women’s soccer team. If you like toned arms and shoulders, then check out the lacrosse and field hockey teams. If you’re a shorter man, I’d suggest the gymnasts, or maybe a coxswain. Those into getting their asses kicked might want to hang out with the ice hockey team or try to ruck a rugby girl. The swimmers look great in bathing suits, the tennis players dazzle in skirts. It’s all about what you like.

Nice speech. Answer the freaking question.

Fine. Top to bottom, it’s got to be women’s track.

Top to bottom?

And everything in between.

6. It’s interesting that you say that. I’ve heard that you’ve been obsessing over one of the middle-distance runners since freshman year.

Whoa. I’m not “obsessing.”

What else would you call it? “Stalking?”

No! You’re blowing this out of proportion.

Am I? Am I, really?

Yes! You are! I’m not “obsessing,” and I’ve certainly never been “stalking” anyone. This was all just a misunderstanding.

I’m going to give you the time between now and when the police arrive to explain yourself.

Shut up. This whole thing started four years ago, on like the third day we were ever on campus. I was walking towards the Arts Quad from North Campus through the Balch archway. As I was approaching the arch, the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen walked past me going the opposite direction.

The most beautiful? Ever?

I’m from Pennsylvania.


Anyway, she walked by me and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I just couldn’t. I don’t think I even blinked. I kept turning to watch her walk away, her blonde hair dancing in the gentle autumn breeze. [Sigh] And that was when I hit the pillar.

You walked into one of the arch pillars?

Yes. Yes, I did.


Yeah, I hit the ground and she just kept on walking. Made for a hell of a story back at the dorms, though. But see, it’s not an obsession. It’s just a funny anecdote that my friends blow out of proportion.

You’re pathetic.

Hey! Don’t you judge me! You’re the one who interviewed her!

How dare you! I am a paragon of journalistic integrity.

I hope her boyfriend kicks your ass.

7. What’s the best part about rowing?

Over the past four years, I’ve really developed an affinity for spandex.

Be serious.

I am! You’ve got to try it. Beats the hell out of underwear.

Come on.

Ok. Rowing is spiritual in a way that few other sports are. You’re out there, very much in the elements. There are no soul-sucking fluorescent lights, no artificial surfaces, no umpires or refs calling knick-knack fouls. It’s just you and the water. I hate to sound existential, but there’s something very primal about sitting in a racing shell. You can channel nature.

Stop, you’re making me all misty.

Hey man. That’s how it is. It’s the greatest sport in the world.

8. Why do Yankees fans suck?

What kind of question is that? You know how they suck!

Tell me.

Well, you know … they just do!

Great argument.

They’re evil! And soulless! And they’re arrogant jerks that, as a majority, know nothing about baseball. They don’t know what it’s like to actually be a fan and to live and die with every pitch. And they have no honor whatsoever.

How do you mean?

All the Yankees fans that I was watching Game 7 of last year’s ALCS with had given up on the game and admitted defeat before the game was over! How can you call yourself a fan??? After the Sox signed Schilling and Foulke, one of those heathens said to me, “I concede the division.”

Tell me where the honor is in all of that, exactly?

Sit down and put your shirt back on.

9. Boxers or briefs?

You’ve got to be kidding me.

This is the ninth question. I’m running out of gas.

You didn’t do a lot of preparation for this, did you?

I figured I could wing it.

You’re not going to get anywhere in life if you keep half-assing things.

10. If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would they be?

Tony Kornheiser, because maybe he’d give me a job at the Washington Post.

I hear he likes cherries.

Got to have Ted Williams. I could just sit there and listen to baseball stories all night.

Would you invite just his frozen head? Or his body, too?

You’re sick. Let’s see, there should probably be some female influ
ence at the table, so I’d have to go with —

Natalie Gingerich?

No! How many times do I have to explain this??? I’m NOT obsessed!!!

Just kidding.

I’m never going to live that down.

Just stop talking now, and quit while you’re behind.

Archived article by Per Ostman
Sun Senior Writer