Bluff The Listener

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Our panelists tell us three stories of athletes having problems, only one of which is true.


From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Kyrie O'Connor, Charlie Pierce and Paula Poundstone. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Carl. Thank you so much.


SAGAL: Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

SHANNON MCKINNEY: Hi, this is Shannon, calling from Memphis, Tennessee.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Memphis, a great town?

MCKINNEY: It's pretty good.

SAGAL: Pretty good?


SAGAL: Only pretty good?

MCKINNEY: It's great.

SAGAL: There you go.


SAGAL: That's what I wanted to hear. Well, welcome to the show, Shannon. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Shannon's topic?

KASELL: These shoulder pads make me look fat.

SAGAL: Being a sports star isn't just entourages and concussions. No, there's a dark side too. Our panelists are going to read you three stories about the problems of being a professional athlete. Guess the true story and you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Ready to go?


SAGAL: All right. First, let's hear from Kyrie O'Connor.

KYRIE O: Brian Christie is a respected Canadian pro figure skater. But Christie has a secret. Christie is completely unable to perform unless his six-foot Burmese python, Mr. Slinky, is in the arena. This oddity came to light recently when rink officials caught Christie and his manager trying to smuggle Mr. Slinky into a Winnipeg arena in an oversized beer cooler, for a charity salute to "The Sound of Music" on ice.


CONNOR: Christie was seen backstage shaking and apparently in tears. He was unable to take the ice to perform his signature piece, "The Lonely Goat Herder in Lederhosen."


CONNOR: The obsession began when Christie first met the snake, during a Britney Spears' themed show.


CONNOR: In which Christie skated to "I'm a Slave 4 U," with the serpent around his neck. He said, "It was the best skating I ever did in my life. I got hooked." Fans have started an online petition drive to allow the python into future performances, called "Snakes for Skates."



SAGAL: A figure skater who's lost without his python. Your next story of an athlete in need comes from Charlie Pierce.

CHARLIE PIERCE: Mark Anthony Delaru is one of the most promising young jockeys in the country, having piled up an impressive string of winners at Louisiana Downs and at Saratoga during the recent meet there. He's managed to do this despite one overwhelming physical disadvantage, he is violently allergic to horses.


PIERCE: Delaru discovered this as a teenager, working as a stable boy at Louisiana Downs. Doctors told him that the substances in a horse's perspiration caused him a severe rash. His father, a veteran trainer, hit upon the notion of encasing his son partially in bubble wrap.

Now, before every race, Delaru applies a mixture of vegetable oil and Desitin to his lower body and his arms, after which he winds the bubble wrap tightly around himself, and then goes out on the track. The other jockeys have taken to calling him "Bubble Boy," but Delaru already has an endorsement deal with Staples.


PIERCE: He won four straight starts at the fairgrounds, and he is the fourth leading money winner this year at Saratoga. "You hardly notice it before the race," said Paul Lamaru, another veteran jockey, "but when Mark Anthony goes by, he sort of squishes and pops. It's weird sounding."


PIERCE: "The biggest thing I worry about is the effect on the horse," Delaru explained. "The last thing you want pounding down the stretch is a racehorse thinking somebody's shooting at it."



SAGAL: A jockey who's so allergic to horses he needs to wrap himself in bubble wrap. And your last story of the perils of play comes from Paula Poundstone.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Big league baseball is a tough game. That's why Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jerome Williams was incorrectly called Jeremy for two years after joining his first big league team, the San Francisco Giants.

"They just called me that," says Williams. "I just rolled with it. I was a rookie, and I didn't want to tell anybody, because I was scared." He believes that the relief pitcher, Felix Rodriguez, was the first to mistakenly call him Jeremy, and the others just followed suit.

He recalls that manager Felipe Alou was the only one who didn't mistakenly call him Jeremy for two years. "Felipe never really called me by my name. He was just like 'hey guy, come here, guy. '"


POUNDSTONE: After two years, however, he felt comfortable enough with pitching coach Dave Righetti to tell him that his name was Jerome, not Jeremy. In another year or so, he may reveal that he is a second baseman.


POUNDSTONE: Or, perhaps, that he never played baseball at all, until when delivering clean uniforms to the locker room, Felipe Alou said, "Hey guy, get dressed and get out there."



SAGAL: All right. Here are your three choices. Is it, from Kyrie O'Connor, a figure skater who simply cannot perform without his python nearby? From Charlie Pierce, a jockey so allergic to horses, he must wrap himself in bubble wrap to ride? Or from Paula Poundstone, a professional baseball player so terrified he was unable to correct anybody when they called him by the wrong name for two years?

MCKINNEY: Oh, my goodness. I think I'm going to go with the baseball player.

SAGAL: So you're going to work your way through it. You're going to choose Paula's story of the San Francisco Giants player. Well, we have what might be a familiar voice to you to bring the real story.

JON MILLER: He was always Jerome to we broadcasters with the Giants.


ANNOUNCER: But a teammate, seeing his name written out, said Jeremy.

SAGAL: That was the immortal voice of Jon Miller, play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco Giants, telling us about the poor guy who simply did not have the guts to correct his teammates when they mispronounced his name. You were right.


SAGAL: Paula Poundstone had the real story.


SAGAL: You've earned a point for Paula Poundstone. You've won our prize. Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your home answering machine. Well done.

MCKINNEY: OK, thank you.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

POUNDSTONE: Congratulations, thank you.

MCKINNEY: Thank you.

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