Not My Job: We Quiz Sportswriter John Bacon On Bacon
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we like to talk about experts about things they are not expert on. It's called Not My Job. In Ann Arbor, Mich., there's no topic bigger than Michigan football. Every game day, so many people pack into Michigan Stadium that it becomes a super-massive black hole, sinks into the earth, and they have to build another one. Sports writer John Bacon has lived in Ann Arbor his whole life. His latest book is called "Endzone: The Rise, Fall And Return Of Michigan Football." John Bacon, welcome to WAIT WAIT.
JOHN BACON: Thank you.
SAGAL: So you just wrote an entire book. This is not your first book about Michigan football.
SAGAL: How many books have you written about Michigan football?
BACON: Seven books total and, I suppose, three about Michigan football.
SAGAL: Three about Michigan football. Why in the world should anyone outside of Michigan care about Michigan football?
BACON: I got to go back to Bob Ufer, the famous voice of Michigan football who said...
BACON: I could just stop there, actually, so - he said that Michigan football is a religion and Saturday is the holy day of obligation. And when you go around the country, wherever I go - I've been to 40 countries - and they always say go blue wherever you go. So I've seen that all around the world.
SAGAL: Now, I went to a college with not a very impressive football program, so this makes no sense to me because - I mean, when people are rooting for Michigan, all right, the players change every year, they graduate or I don't know what happens to them.
SAGAL: So are people rooting for what? They're rooting for the M. They're rooting for the tradition. They're rooting for...
BACON: As corny as it sounds - this is going to sound very corny - it's the whole aspect of being together in one place. Where we don't care what your religion is, your race, anything else, if you put your fist in the air on a hail, you're one of us. And that is a great religion.
SAGAL: There you go. Now, you teach at the University of Michigan.
BACON: I lecture on the history of college athletics and also the history of American sports writing. I teach, also, at Northwestern...
SAGAL: Wait a minute, the history of college athletics?
BACON: (Laughter) Where'd I lose you?
SAGAL: I - are you one of those guys who went into writing about sports 'cause you couldn't play them. Were you not...?
BACON: That's one of the reasons, yes, I would say that. My - well, you might already know this, but I still hold the record here in Ann Arbor Huron High School for the most games in a Huron High School uniform - 86 - with the fewest goals - zero - and no one's ever broken that. So there you go.
SAGAL: Really? Is there a plaque on the wall?
BACON: There should be.
SAGAL: Now, you, in your sports books, have often taken, I guess, the George Clinton approach of participating in sports.
BACON: That's right.
SAGAL: So did you, like, practice with the University of Michigan football team when you wrote about them for the first time.
BACON: I almost did. This is a very bad idea, it turns out. Denard Robinson, the quarterback of the team at the time, said you got to do everything we're doing. I said, I'm already following you everywhere. He said, no man, you got to do it. And that meant actually going down to the weight room and, for six weeks, working out with the football team. It did not go well.
SAGAL: Well, what was it like? What were their workouts like?
BACON: It was like death, but slower and louder.
SAGAL: Did you earn their respect?
BACON: Incredibly, I did. Not the usual way. I was getting crushed. The first 15 minutes, I was doing weights. I knew I could throw up from skating, from running too much, whatever. I did not know this could be done from weights alone. So after about 15 minutes, Mike Barwis, then the strength coach at Michigan, he looks at me and he can tell that I'm not doing well. My knuckles are at the side, I'm mouth breathing. He says, Bacon, trash can's over there.
BACON: And like the fraternities you did not belong to, of course, at a fraternity party when you tell yourself, I need to maybe go near the bathroom 'cause I'm not quite sure how I'm feeling, you start walking towards that trash can. And once you've admitted to your mind that this might happen, your mind says, screw you, man, it's happening right now.
BACON: And then you start beating a path, very quickly, to that trash can, sticking my heat two feet into a nice, big industrial Rubbermaid trash can, losing my breakfast and my lunch. And while I'm in there, I'm thinking, well, this is not really a career highlight for me right now.
BACON: But then I thought, well, maybe nobody saw me.
BACON: So I emerged very slowly and like this, and then, of course, the entire 120-member football team gives me a standing ovation...
BACON: ...For that.
BACON: They were not impressed by my previous books, best-sellers, anything else, but this impressed the hell out of them. Yeah, Bacon, man. Get the poison out. You the man. It was endless.
SAGAL: One last question before we play the game.
SAGAL: What in the world did Ohio State ever do to you guys?
SAGAL: Seriously, like, you're booing. What?
SAGAL: Perfectly fine Midwestern state somewhere to the southeast. What did they do to you?
BACON: You're going to be baffled by this answer. They took Toledo.
SAGAL: When you say they took Toledo, what do you mean?
BACON: I mean exactly that. The line is supposed to go from Chicago - the state line - from Chicago, straight through to Lake Erie. It's supposed to include Toledo on the Michigan side. And that is why there's this little wiggle in the state line of Michigan because Toledo's a very important port in 1837. So Toledo's now part of Ohio, and they gave Michigan, as a result, the Upper Peninsula.
SAGAL: And you're angry because they got Toledo and you got the Upper Peninsula?
BACON: I got over it.
SAGAL: Well, John Bacon, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BACON: What did you think we were going to ask you about?
SAGAL: John Bacon, the sports writer, we're going to ask you three questions about bacon, the cured meat product. Answer two questions correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice sizzling on their voice mail. Bill, who is John Bacon playing for?
BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: Kevin VanderVeld of Ann Arbor, Mich.
SAGAL: There you go.
BACON: That's kind of bad, isn't it? Other guests are from India and whatnot. I might see this guy.
SAGAL: Exactly. Here's your first question, Bacon. Bacon, despite its reputation, can be good for your health as long as you use which of these products? A - the BaconAir Oxygen Inhaler, which adds delicious bacon flavor to healthful Himalayan oxygen; B - the Bacon Carrot, a hat that holds a strip of bacon two feet in front of your face to incentivize your running; or C - the bicycle-powered George Foreman grill, which turns your workout into a sizzling treat.
BACON: One of these is really true, right?
SAGAL: One of those is true.
BACON: I'm, incredibly, going to go with two.
SAGAL: You're going to go with two, the Bacon Carrot - the carrot on a stick
BACON: It would work - it would work on me, that's all I can tell you.
SAGAL: You're running, there's a strip of bacon, and you're running along. If you can just catch it...
BACON: I'm getting a lot of support from the crowd here today.
SAGAL: They want to see some blocking and tackling. No, I'm afraid it was actually A, the BaconAir Inhaler. And it's supposed to give you delicious bacon flavor without fats, salt, calories or solid matter.
ROY BLOUNT JR.: I'll bet if your name is Bacon, you're expected to smell very good in the morning. Must be hard to live up to.
SAGAL: Next question. As you can imagine, there are a lot of things on the market that are bacon flavored. You can in fact buy bacon flavored what? A - fuel additive; B - insulin; or C - baby formula.
BACON: Got to go with C.
SAGAL: And you're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, APPLAUSE)
SAGAL: You can treat your very own newborn to Bacon Baby, bacon flavored baby formula. All right, you've got one right answer with one left to go. The clock is ticking down. Last question. In July of this year, a British man showed that his love for bacon had no equal when he did what? A - wrote in his will that he would like to be smoked and cured after his death; B - called 911 to have his cat arrested after his cat stole his bacon; or C - hearing that a local Jewish day school did not serve bacon, he donated 40 pounds of it.
BACON: Oh, this is shockingly tough. I'm going to go with B.
SAGAL: You're right. It was B. The emergency operator said it's not a criminal offense to let your cat eat your bacon. And, they said, we don't arrest cats. Bill, how did John Bacon do on our show?
KURTIS: Touchdown, Bacon.
SAGAL: John U. Bacon is an author, teacher, speaker and hockey coach. His new book is "Endzone: The Rise, Fall And Return Of Michigan Football." John Bacon, thank you so much for joining us. John Bacon, everyone.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill gets a new pair of yoga pants. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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