September 20, 2007

10 Questions with Tim Bax

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While a stifling defense was on its way to smothering the Bucknell offense, junior safety Tim Bax was raking in the tackles. Before traveling to face Yale next weekend, Sun columnist Shannan Scarselletta tried to defend the pass rush against Bax.

1. So, the Cornell football team just rocked Bucknell with a 38-14 victory on Saturday in front of over 10,000 people. First of all, did you know that 10,000 Cornellians had heard of football? I mean, statistically speaking, that has to include engineers and pre-meds.
I was under the assumption that there were more people at the libraries than at the games … so I heard the numbers, and figured we were in pretty good shape.
This win made six consecutive home-turf victories against Bucknell. What do you think is the source of your home-turf advantage, is it the 10,000 fans emerging from the dark corners of the Asian Studies section or … ?
Just being able to practice on the turf, and taking burns like a man. We’re used to it.
So, do you play on different types of fields at different schools?
Yeah [our upcoming challenge] Yale is on grass; we’re the only school with Astroturf. But I think we’re switching to field turf.
I’ll be straight with you: I heard it has something to do with field hockey.
It does. They like playing on Astroturf.
So field hockey trumps football?
No, not anymore. Times are changing.
Oooh, them are fightin’ words. Do you or the team warm up any differently home than you do away?
No, it’s the same thing. The pregame is the same thing; we typically dance around the locker room and get down.
Oh, so you still listen to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You?”
Yeah, get a little techno in there … get loose.

2. About that. I have a direct quote from Alex Spooner here, “Yeah, Bax’s iTunes is filled with Mariah Carey. That “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” song, John Legend, Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Annie Lennox’s “Walking on broken Glass.” Let me repeat that last one. Annie Lennox. Does she speak to your soul?
She really digs deep into my soul. She just says all the right words … and I just got to, you know … walk on broken glass.
That’s not creepy at all. No really, my little sister would love you to make a mix for her.
One game into your season, you lead your team in tackles: A whopping nine against Bucknell. You listen to Annie Lennox … and then lay people out?
She keeps my nerves calm. By the way, I’m tied with Anthony Sabo, I have to throw props out to him; we call him Saber.

3. So who would win in a fight, you or … um … Saber?
Well, he’s got the cowboy collar on. It prevents your neck from snapping back all the way. It makes him more intimidating.
He is from Detroit.
He’s actually from just outside of Detroit.
Time out, he reps Detroit, when he’s from a suburb? That’s not allowed. By the way, he said you milked your preseason injury to get out of workouts. You still don’t want to fight him?
I had a concussion! Plus, Sabo has a cowboy collar on; he doesn’t have room to talk.
Wait, why is he wearing pads in this hypothetical fight? I want to know who would win in a knuckle-on-knuckle brawl.
Knuckle-on-knuckle? I’d win. I got the reach.
Yeah, but Sabo’s got the weight.
Oh, yeah he does, that’s for sure. Write that down. He’s definitely got the weight. 5-11 and 240. Write that down.
Ouch. Aren’t you the lightest safety though?
Yeah, I’m at like 180, 189 on the roster.
Well, have you had dinner?
Make that 182.

4. Well, I’m sure your high school sports success prepared you well for the rigors of Division I football. I saw on the Cornell Big Red website that you were a three-sport athlete in high school. Football, basketball and … volleyball? Like … boy’s volleyball?
Men’s … men’s volleyball. Wha … What’s so funny?
Okay, was it difficult choosing between volleyball and field hockey?
[Laughing.] It was very masculine. We listened to gangster warm up music, and had long shorts and baggy shirts. We played Celine Dion when the other team would hit. They couldn’t get pumped up. Intimidation.
So basically, your party shuffle. What position did you play in basketball?
I don’t know if it was a “position,” I was just a forward. I was “Mr. Hustle.” Yeah, I did get the Mr. Hustle Award. I got a trophy for it at the end of the year.
With your name engraved on it?
Not engraved on it, more like stuck on it. I was more of a “defensive” player. I think I had two points the whole year. I started one game, and two minutes into it I had to call for a sub. The conditioning’s just not the same.
Do you think you could “D” me up? We do need a practice player for the women’s basketball team.
It probably wouldn’t be a competition. I don’t know if you have this written down, but I was Mr. Hustle. A little FYI for you. You’d take some hard fouls. Game speed, girl, game speed.
How long did you play basketball?
Just picked it up senior year.
And you played varsity, and started?I can’t believe you snuck into a game.
I definitely just casually walked in, played it cool … like, “You … you’re out.”
That’s why you were Mr. Hustle.
Yeah, then I hustled back to the bench.
So, were your warm ups really intense, and that’s why you got the Mr. Hustle award? Was that your time to shine?
No, I would always try to dunk … but I did dunk once during warm-ups — highlight of my career.
Like, a little ball, lowered hoop?
No, 10-footer, big ball, lay up line … I remember the day well.
How long did it take you to get it?
I mean, this might’ve been the 12th game into the season. I tried it in every lay up line. But the right song must’ve come on.
“Oh my god, are they playing Mariah Carey?”
Mariah Carey came on and I nailed the 360 dunk, and I played it cool. Jogged back to the rebound line, and laid it up every time after that. Went out on top. Didn’t try to dunk ever again.
I like where your mind’s at. Hit it and quit it.

5. Let’s try some analogies. Urban Planning is to Architecture as Diet coke is to …
I have to figure out what urban planning consists of before I answer that. It’s my major, but I’m still a little confused about what it means. I haven’t had a test in it since freshman year.
I feel like it kind of consists of playing Rollercoaster Tycoon.
[Laughs.] Close, there’s a lot of managing going on, a lot of planning. But it’s not like roller coasters. If people die, it’s your fault. You can’t just start it over.
Don’t knock Rollercoaster Tycoon.
No, it’s a sweet game, I guess Rollercoaster Tycoon is … like … the start of urban planning. I guess I’m in the third year of Rollercoaster Tycoon — that’s what urban planning is.
Alright, so you were a 10-year-old sitting at a computer like, “Oh, my god. Let this be a major.”
Keeping hope alive for all those Rollercoaster Tycoon addicts. There’s a world outside for you, don’t worry.
So, as an urban planning major. Do you know the solution to Cornell’s parking problem?
Yes. [Dramatic pause.] More parking spaces. Really, it’s very simple. We’re making it more complex than it should be … we just need more spots. In class, they asked, “What’s this campus need more of?” and I almost raised my hand and said, “parking spaces.” But then the professor asked, “What does this campus need less of?” and some kid said, “parking spaces.” I would’ve looked like a huge idiot there. I don’t raise my hand anymore.
That kid doesn’t own a car.
Yeah, that kid rides his bike to class. Up buffalo. In four feet of snow.

6. Speaking of cars, I heard you don’t have a license right now. Could you explain that one?
I don’t have a license until February. We had a little run-in with the cops freshman year and got in trouble for littering and … we’ll leave it at “littering and …” Now, I don’t have a license, for a complete year.
That “and” sounds like it’s followed by a lot of ellipses there.
Dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot … Let’s just say I went to court a couple times.

7. The New England Patriots have been accused and convicted of illegal scouting practices, primarily the taping of the New York Jets’ hand signals. Do you think modern football teams run the risk of overscouting? Whatever happened to pure, unprepared, athlete vs. athlete football?
The talent is so equal at the level of the pros that it comes down to more scheme and play-calling. It’s developed more into the gameplan than the athletic ability of the players. They’re all pretty evenly matched, so you got to do what you got to do. Just don’t get caught! You’re not a cheater if you don’t get caught.
So you’re saying you sit on the sidelines of Harvard just letting the film roll?
[Laughing.] No, no. I couldn’t catch onto hand signals if my life depended on it. I’d be like, “It’s either a blitz, or he’s waving to someone in the stands.” They say the plays in our offense, and I still don’t even know what they’re talking about, so I’m not the go-to guy for hand-signal stealing.
How does the Cornell football team scout? Do you study individual players, positions or entire plays?
We study entire plays; we look at different formations. Each formation usually has different tendencies, so we know the tendencies based on the different personnel groups they have out there.
Do your coaches do a good job scouting?
Oh yeah, they’re amazing. [Leans into the microphone.] They’re amazing.
Are you working on keeping that starting spot right now?
[Laughs.] No, they scheme. The only reason we mess up is personal breakdown. It’s our fault.
Who do you think is the hardest team to scout and why?
Probably our first game, Bucknell, because we don’t get any film on them. Because it’s our first game of the year, we have no film to give them, so they don’t get our game tapes, either.

8. So, what do you think made the difference between last year’s loss and this year’s win? I keep hearing about how Cornell football’s turned around, with a new intensity and new focus.
Well, we have an entirely new offense, so Bucknell was completely confused. We’re just more experienced, more confident out there. We know the defense like the back of our hands, and the offense is clicking.
I read a line that Cornell’s defensive line is “experienced but thin.”
Yeah, we have a lot of experience but not much depth. So if one player goes down …
Or if one player’s milking an injury …
Right, if one person’s milking a concussion …
God, walk it off! Do you think the leadership and focus has changed on your team?
Well, I stayed over the summer — about 20 of us did. We got a lot stronger, better and close-knit. [Seniors Colin] Nash and [Brian] McGuire are our captains, and they’re great guys and great captains so far. But everyone’s got to be a leader, and everyone’s got to step up and make a play.
So, what’s Nash’s victory dance like? Because I’ve seen that boy on a dance floor, and he can move.
He doesn’t have any moves. He gets them all from me. Quote that. Nash gets all his moves from me. Print it. I teach him a couple dances in the locker room, but I don’t like giving all of them away. But I’ll break them down for the team, you know, share the wealth.
Copyright that s*@#.

9. Okay, I got to do it. Who’s your pick for the hottest women’s team at Cornell?
I was told to say soccer.
You can’t be told to say it. I want it to come from the heart of Mr. Hustle Bax.
All right, I’ll say … let me go with women’s tennis. They always give the most crotch shots in the paper.
Oh. My. God.
The cameraman’s a creep. He’s there for the whole game, and he couldn’t get them serving or anything. He just waits until their legs are wide open. It’s not my fault; I just read the paper; I don’t take the pictures.
Okay, you’re just an innocent bystander. So, who’s your pick for the hottest women’s team at Cornell. Who has a winter season and is really tall?
I’d have to go with … hockey.

10. Final question: if you could tackle anybody, living or dead, who would it be and why?
[Pensive Pause.] Santa clause. Finally catch that bastard. I want to run down the stairs and just spear him. If I hit the tree, I hit the tree. I’m not trying to ruin Christmas, I’m just trying to get an I.D. on him and send him on his way.
Were you that kid? Like, sitting in front of the fireplace, covered in soot, “he’ll never spot me.”
No, my brother ruined the whole thing for me when I was young.
Like 15?
Seventeen. It was a week before I got my license taken. Oh my god, it was the worst week ever.
So what did Santa ever do to you?
I just figure if I can catch him, I’d be that guy — I’d be pretty popular. It’d be quite the icebreaker, too. When talking to girls, “yeah I tackled Santa, the real one. He was in my house. I pulled the beard. It was real. Yeah, he’s a lot bigger than you think. He’s not that good laterally. It was an easy tackle.”