With the Eastern Regional championships coming up in a few weeks, senior captain Stan Feldman spent a few chuckers with Paul Testa.
1. You’re sporting the Duke hoodie. Right now, most bracketoligists have them at a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Do you think that’s too low?
I think that’s way too low. I think they’ll be a No. 3 when all things are said and done. This is a big week for them. They’ve got Maryland and then UNC. They’re playing a lot better now. They’ve been blowing people out of the water.
You have to expect that from a young team under Krzyzewski.
Absolutely. He’s Coach K. He’s going to bring the team along.
I think I read some of your work on Outside the Beltway Sports. Were you at the Duke-Temple game over break?
How come you’ll write for them but not for Sun Sports?
I just never got around to it. I wrote for Daze for a little while writing reviews, but I just kind of got tired of it.
What’s you’re feeling on the NBA’s age rule?
I like it a lot.
Granted, Duke’s not a school that recruits kids who are one-and-done.
Exactly. It’s fun to watch guys like Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, especially Durant. He’s something else. It also gives guys who would have jumped to the league [a chance to play], guys like Kwame Brown, who is terrible and really should have spent some time in college.
2. Let’s move on to a sport you have a little more experience playing. Why polo?
I rode hunter jumpers, the jumping horses, for about 10 years, and my sister went to a high school in Maryland that has a polo team. I started taking lessons there after school and then just dropped the whole hunter jumper thing because it was boring.
Were you one of those kids playing with My Little Ponies growing up?
[Indignantly] No. No, my sister had them growing up. I would kick them all over and break their legs.
What is this hunter jumper thing? Did it involve bloodhounds and foxes?
It’s like showing. You ride around the ring all dressed up in britches.
3. I heard you had a traumatic polo injury in high school. What happened?
I was going towards the goal. It was actually a girl I was playing against. She was next to me and she kind of hip checked me into the corner where the goal comes out. I went right into the corner and got knocked unconscious. Everything I’ve heard after that is what my mom has told me. My foot got caught in the stirrup and I got dragged around under the horse for about a minute.
This sounds like a Fox half-hour special: When Ponies attack.
My eyes were open apparently so my retinas got scratched and I was blind for like a week.
After something like that, how could you even dream of getting back in the saddle?
Well, I don’t remember it happening.
But you have to remember being blind for like a week, right?
I don’t know. The funny part of the story was that I woke up, I come to and I’m lying on the ground. I’m on stretcher and I’ve got these hands all over me. They thought I was dead, but I freak out and I’m like “Get off me! Get off me!” They start carting me off, and apparently I turn to the EMT and say, “I’ve always wanted to do this,” and I stick my thumb up in the air for the crowd.
[Laughing.] Always a showman. Do you think most people don’t realize how physical of a sport polo is?
Definitely. Like the example we were talking about before, that stuff happens. Maybe not as bad as what happened to me, but you fall off or you get spurs in your side.
Is it ever intentional?
Are you doling out some justice with the mallet?
I’m known for that.
How does one get their jabs in?
It’s like any other sport. It’s not cheating if the ref doesn’t see it.
I’ve always subscribed to that philosophy.
If you’re in tight with someone, maybe you just grab his rein or something.
Maybe reach over and unhook the whole saddle?
I’ve never done that, but I’ve knocked people off before.
4. You were part of the 2005 men’s polo team, which was the last men’s side to win a national championship. Do you feel that this year’s squad has what it takes in terms of components and mentality to go all the way?
We definitely have the components. I’m not sure if we have the mentality. We’re still trying to build that. Bobby [Harvey] is still young, even though he’s a sophomore. He’s on and off sometimes. Then we have [junior] Brian [Fairclough], who could be the best player in the country when he feels like it. We’re not where the 2005 team was mentally. That team was ready to go.
The team is 10-2-1 with that one tie coming down at Virginia in a controversial game. Is Cornell-Virginia the polo equivalent of Duke-North Carolina?
You guys always seem to get some tough breaks down in Charlottesville. Is that just the way the game goes or is there something different about playing Virginia away?
I don’t want to point fingers or anything, but when they come up here, we always have objective refs. When we went down there and played that game, one of the refs was the coach’s son.
That can’t be legal, even in Virginia.
We actually tied them because he didn’t call a penalty shot that clearly went in. I don’t know how you mess that up, but somehow he managed to screw that one up.
5. You’ve got two games until the regional championships. What are your expectations?
We’ll blow through that. We’ll slaughter everybody.
Who’s your closest competition?
UConn will probably be the toughest team there, and we just beat the [rhymes with scrap] out of them over the weekend. I think Harvard and Yale will be there, and probably Skidmore, and we can just run circles around those teams. Then we’ll go to nationals. I think the finals are actually going to be on ESPN, but we have competition there. There are some teams from Texas. Colorado State is supposed to have a good team.
Didn’t you guys destroy them at the Bill Field Invitational back in the fall?
I don’t think that was their real team. I think they’ve got a couple of guys who were too lazy to make the trip, which tends to happen with polo because you’ve got a couple of guys who were kind of raised getting their horses tacked up for them and stuff like that.
Do you have a stable boy?
No, we’re the stable boys.
So that’s what the smell is.
6. How much of a difference do the horses make in polo?
They’re tough and they’ve got to take a pounding. Not many horses are going to want to bang into each other like that. They have to be fast obviously, and they also have to be willing to take mallets in the face. They probably are the toughest horses around.
Do specific horses have their own personalities?
Give me some examples. Who’s your favorite horse?
I get to ride all the [rhymes with scrappy] horses because I play the No. 3 position. I’m a defensive person, so I don’t need the kind of agility that other players need, so I get the big bruisers. I’ve got a couple that I love, like Nitro. He’s a tank.
Nitro? Isn’t that an American Gladiator?
He is like an American Gladiator. He’s real dumb too.
7. Do you prefer riding bareback or do you need the saddle?
I need the saddle.
It’s the way the anatomy works. It’s a little harder for a guy to keep his balance bareback.
It’s tough, but I feel you get a little better feel for the animal.
Yeah, but you’re sitting right on the backbone. Imagine how that feels.
8. I’ve heard there’s actually an award named after you on the team, the Feldman Award. How did you get such an honor and how is the honor passed on each year?
I was sophomore, and one of the older guys on the team, a senior, Nick Grew [’05] was holding a horse in the ring during practice and he dared me to try and leapfrog the horse from behind onto the saddle.
Horses hate being taken from behind.
[Laughing] I didn’t realize what horse it was. It was one of our wilder horses and the girth, which holds the saddle on, wasn’t attached. So I run up behind the horse and plant my hands on it and try and leapfrog up on it and the horse just bolts.
I swear I saw this on Jackass.
[Laughing] Yeah, right. The horse bolts and the horse is sprinting around the arena during practice. Our coach [David Eldredge ’81] looks out at the ring and there’s this horse flying around with the reins flying everywhere and everything’s breaking and I’m lying there on the dirt. I guess the award, which actually has a little model of a horse’s ass on it, is for an act of unconscionable stupidity that is impossible to get mad at.
9. Lacoste or Polo?
[Shakes head.] I don’t know. My mom buys all my clothes.
Just to make it clear, you guys do really wear polos?
We do really wear polos.
Do you sport the Ralph Lauren or is that too cliché?
Actually, I think everybody in the polo world has kind of banished Ralph Lauren because he tried to sue the U.S. Polo Association for the use of the word “polo.”
He claimed he had a trademark on it, which I guess he has an argument because the Polo Association was trying to put out a clothing line.
I think I’ve seen that. I thought it was just a variation on Polo Sport.
I’ve seen it on little kids who probably shouldn’t be wearing it, but they happen to be wearing it because they thought it was Ralph Lauren.
So I actually wore this shirt today for a purpose. [Points to lavender Ralph Lauren polo shirt.] Tell me, how is this guy’s form?
Yeah, he looks good. He could probably be up on his saddle a little more.
Couldn’t we all.
10. What’s the hottest women’s varsity team at Cornell?
I knew this was coming.
You’ve got basically two choices up at Oxley, between women’s polo and the equestrian team.
I was like, I could be honest and say I don’t know many players on the other teams, and that I sat around Sunday afternoon after the Duke game and before and the Oscars checking out CornellBigRed.com, but then I was like, “No, I’ll just lie and say women’s track.”
Who is your honest choice?
I don’t know. I’ve always liked soccer girls. Soccer girls are pretty cute.
They are. The last 10 Questions guy, Per Ostman [’1869] also picked women’s soccer as his hottest team. What is it about a soccer player? Is it that they can do it in 11 different positions for a full 90 minutes?
The 90 minutes thing is pretty nice, and the short shorts too.
I have to say though, that on the right person, riding britches can be pretty attractive.
I’ll agree with that.
I feel like the women’s polo team and the equestrian team are going to be disappointed.
I figured I’d save them their dignity and leave them out of this entirely. They don’t need me commenting.
Paul Testa is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. 10 Questions will appear every Thursday this semester unless Testa is sued by Ralph Lauren for the repeated use of the word “polo” in this article.