Street: What's the Deuce?
Sam Mattis: It is one of the worst kept, dilapidated, deteriorating pieces of shit excuse for a house in University City. I don’t think the walls are even straight or perpendicular at this point. It’s kind of just the place to be for track, it’s like our chapter house. I think we’ve had it since 2003 or 2004 and I don’t think it’s been cleaned since.
Street: Tell us about how you qualified for the Olympics.
SM: I hit the A–standard. To make the Olympics you have to first make the A–standard. And then you have to be top three of the people who have the A–standard at Olympics trials which are in July. So I won’t find out until July but it’s looking pretty promising now.
Street: How many people have the A–standard?
SM: So far just two. It’ll probably end up being six at the max. If it’s two it would be awesome because I wouldn’t have to do anything but it’ll probably be a few.
Street: What does hitting the A–standard entail?
SM: You just literally have to throw a certain distance at a track meet. And I did that on my birthday, so that was pretty chill.
Street: How did you get into discus?
SM: I went out for the track team in eighth grade to stay in shape for football. That was the first and last year I ever played football. I wanted to run and jump because those are the cool things that people care about. But then I tripped over a hurdle and my coach was like ‘Okay, you’re big you’re gonna throw now.’ And I was like ‘Fuck you guys... fine.’
Street: What’s the hardest part about being an athlete at Penn?
SM: Penn doesn't really care about the track athletes. Like football guys get a bunch of gear. They get food and snacks and stuff. Our locker room just got heat this year. Our showers weren’t warm until like January. We just don’t really get treated like a real team even though we’re like low–key top 25 in the country right now. No one knows that. We’re probably one of Penn’s best teams. And it’s all under the radar.
Street: Do you feel like there's a stigma around athletes?
SM: I know the rest of the campus views student–athletes as being like dumbasses but we're not. I mean some people are. Some people definitely are. There are some bricks on every team. But there are also some really smart kids who are totally involved in the community outside of athletics, too. I also wish Penn would give scholarships or meal plans to athletes but they don’t do that.
Street: Why do you think they should give athletic scholarships?
SM: I think part of the reason why Ivy sports don’t really compare to programs around the country is because of the lack of scholarships. We definitely have the resources. There are a lot of athletic, smart kids out there. If you look at Stanford or Duke, they’ve got amazing athletic programs and they’re a top–tier school, just like Penn. It’s definitely possible. But why would someone come here if they have to pay and they’re not going to get the best athletic program possible when they can go to an amazing sports program for free?
Street: What do you say to people that question whether universities should recruit athletes?
SM: I think athletics plays a big part in the success of any university. I think it’s something that keeps alumni connected, and the students connected, and makes the whole student body jell and mesh. Our football team was pretty decent this year and there were actually people out in the games and people celebrating. Obviously it’s not going to be like a Michigan or an Alabama where you’ve got 70,000 people at the games. I think besides that sports are a great venue to learn stuff outside of the classroom that you’re not going to get regularly. And they’re fun. And they bring in revenue too.
Street: Did you have a moment when you realized you could be going to the Olympics?
SM: It’s been something I’ve thought about since I’ve started throwing. I think I'm a pretty competitive person. My friends tell me if I'm not the best at something immediately I don’t play it. Like I don’t play Super Smash Bros with them because I’m pretty bad. It’s just really frustrating. I don’t want to put the time in because they’re just way better. With discus I started out and I was pretty decent.
Street: What’s your dream job?
SM: If discus could make money that would be awesome. That’s what I’ll be doing next year. I’m just going to throw. I deferred an offer from J.P. Morgan just to throw.
Street: And if discus doesn’t work out?
SM: I'll be super depressed. I don’t know. I guess I’ll go back to J.P. Morgan and the rat race and corporate culture, but I don't really want to do that yet.
Street: What’s the best part about being an athlete at Penn?
SM: The people. The guys that I lived with I never would have met if it wasn’t for track. They’re amazing people and we get to travel together to meets across the country. They’re just awesome. I love being with them. We were going to live together next year but then people got jobs in different places and were really selfish and took those jobs. Because they wanted to sustain themselves or whatever.
Street: What do you love the least about Penn?
SM: There’s so much to choose from. There’s the dining halls. The scholarships. Some really privileged snobby people. We have to pay for a cap and gown even though we’ve paid $60,000 every year to go here. I guess a lot has to do with how Penn treats students as opportunities to make money instead of trying to improve a lot of their services.
Street: If you were going to be famous for something what would it be?
SM: If I could choose, probably not discus. Probably being the star running back or quarterback on a big D1 team, getting drafted to the NFL or something. Or if discus was popular then still discus. So I guess football. And then tragically dying of CTE afterwards.
Street: If you were going to be infamous for something what would it be?
SM: Leading a failed coup d’état against the United States government.
Street: Why would you lead a coup d’état?
SM: Because the system’s rigged. The man’s controlling everything. It’s rigged for the billionaire class, as Bernie Sanders would say. Social mobility’s down in the US, the educational system’s not great, the political system’s broken. Some sort of revolution. Thomas Jefferson said we need one every 20 years. It’s been like 250, so it’s about time.
Street: Are you feeling the Bern?
SM: I’m feeling the Bern. I’ve got some second degree burns all over my body.
Street: What advice would you give freshman year self?
SM: In hindsight I would say chill out with school, you won’t need it because you’ll be throwing. Who would have known. Went to an Ivy League school and didn’t need the education at all.
Street: If you are what you eat then what are you?
SM: Really unhealthy. Week–old stale Hill and Commons dining food. Health violations.
Street: Describe yourself in 3 words.
SM: I am a rebel. Because that's four words. Or a jackass. That works too.
Street: If you go to Rio for the Olympics what would you look forward to the most?
SM: Probably getting involved in some of the political street riots that are going on down there. I’d probably go out and join some protests in the street and get hosed down by fire hoses. Help overthrow President Rousseff.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn…
SM: Kids who go to Legion and those who don’t become involved in a life of crime.
Street: Can you explain?
SM: Legion is like being inside of a cigarette. Everyone there is smoking, either cigarettes or crack. I mean crack is involved somehow in the night for most of the people there. You get inside thinking it’s a fun, crazy idea at 2 or 3 a.m., only to realize you’ve made a terrible mistake, but don’t know how to leave while still preserving your life and the life of others around you, so you pick someone in your group who has to be a sacrifice, and you try to get out as quickly as possible. That is Legion.
Street: So have you been involved in a life of crime?
SM: You can say that. I won’t elaborate. But you can say that. I’ve been to Legion four or five times. So, yes.
Street: Do you have any hidden talents?
SM: I’m great at causing minor inconveniences to people. I’m pretty annoying. With my friends instead of holding the door I’ll close it for them so they have to take another half-second to open it again. I’ll close their laptops so they have to open it again. Or their lockers. Or move a drink about three feet to their right so they have to lean over. It’s just a series of being pretty constantly annoying. That really adds up and makes it special.
Street: Kill, Fuck Marry: Amy Gutmann, the Quaker mascot, Kweder.
SM: So I’m killing Amy Gutmann, that’s easy. Fuck the shit out of the mascot. And I’ll have a life getting serenaded pretty romantically by Kweder. That would be beautiful.
Street: What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
SM: Drinking. It’s really bad for sports but it’s really fun.
Street: What's one thing we forgot to ask you?
SM: My phone number.