Bluff The Listener
BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Bill.
SAGAL: Thank you, everybody. So we're getting some well-needed rest this week so we can go back into the week's news without this persistent tic that's been bothering us.
KURTIS: Our doctor has prescribed no news but Us Weekly until the fits pass.
SAGAL: Or perhaps some recreational lying might help, as in this game from January of last year when our panelists made up some stories about new, harmless sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
NORM: Hi. This is Norm in Painesville, Ohio.
SAGAL: Hey, Norm. Painesville, Ohio?
NORM: That's the name. It's not as...
NORM: ...Hurtful as it sounds.
SAGAL: That's nice. What do you do there in Painesville?
NORM: Well, I'm retired, but I have varied interests. I do some volunteer work and just stay in touch with a lot of friends - listen to NPR, of course.
SAGAL: Yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: That will keep you young.
SAGAL: Well, Norm, welcome to our show.
NORM: Well, thank you very much.
SAGAL: You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Norm's topic?
KURTIS: Good, clean fun - not nearly as boring as it sounds.
SAGAL: Parents know that contact sports like football are too dangerous for their kids' health. There's the risk of concussion, broken bones or growing up to be on the Chicago Bears.
SAGAL: Fortunately, there's a new safe, fun activity for kids to do instead. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the real one who is telling the truth, and you'll win our prize - Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?
SAGAL: Oh, well, good. You sound quite ready. Let's hear first from Maz Jobrani.
MAZ JOBRANI: You've heard of tackle football. Well, now in Switzerland, they've got tickle football.
JOBRANI: That's right. The land of peace and neutrality has brought us a much safer form of youth football where players actually pad up, but they never bang heads. Instead, the objective is to tickle the opponent into submission until he goes down and screams uncle, uncle.
JOBRANI: Simon Meyer (ph), who founded the league, explains (imitating German-Swiss accent), I was introduced to the sport on a trip to Texas.
JOBRANI: (Imitating Swiss accent) I went to a game, and I fell in love with American football. I wanted to import it to Switzerland, but it seemed a little too violent. You see, I also love my kids, so I didn't want them to die.
JOBRANI: (Imitating German-Swiss accent) I thought, what's the most peaceful way to tackle someone without tackling him? And voila - tickle football was born.
JOBRANI: In tickle football, kids with extra long fingers are a commodity...
JOBRANI: ...As they can get in between the opponent's pads and tickle them into submission.
JOBRANI: Also, there are rules you wouldn't find in the American version of the game. For example, one kid was penalized 15 yards for illegal use of a feather.
JOBRANI: The league has also produced some stars. The rushing yards leader is a kid who was born with no feeling in his stomach muscles.
JOBRANI: Though perfectly healthy otherwise, Stefan Keller (ph) can be tickled all day long without flinching. (Imitating German-Swiss accent) Yeah, I'm not very ticklish. I just run up and down the field scoring touchdowns. It is so much fun. I am very excited. I can barely contain myself. Yay.
SAGAL: So extremely authentic Swiss people...
SAGAL: ...Playing tickle football. Maz, were those German-speaking Swiss or...
JOBRANI: That was the German...
SAGAL: ...French-speaking Swiss?
JOBRANI: That was the German Swiss.
SAGAL: Your next story of a parent-approved pastime comes from Mo Rocca.
MO ROCCA: If your newest hobbyhorse is finding a safe pastime for your kids, then why not the hobbyhorse? You know, that stick thing with the horse head on top that kids pretend to ride. Arguably the original hobby - hobby is the Middle English word for horse - the hobby horse is now all the rage for Scandinavian teenage girls. Tens of thousands of girls, mostly in Finland, meet to compete in hurdles, showjumping, even dressage...
ROCCA: ...Each of them astride a stick with a plush horse head on top.
ROCCA: Benla Maria Utella (ph), a senior hobbyhorse hobbyist at age 19, says the obsession starts with younger girls feeding and grooming their hobbyhorses. As they get older, they give their steeds names, personalities, backstories. Many of the girls make and buy their own and in rare cases, after a tragic fracture of the stick, have to put down their hobbyhorse.
ROCCA: They can practice for hours and hours every day, says filmmaker Selma Vilhunen. There's a lot of prejudice from people who think that they're crazy and childish and that it's the stupidest thing in the world.
ROCCA: But hobbyhorse enthusiasts don't care. And why should they? Running around on a stick with a fuzzy horse head may be a little strange, but at least it's not fantasy football. Now, that's stupid.
SAGAL: Competitive hobbyhorse in Scandinavia. Your last story of a harmless hobby comes from Helen Hong.
HELEN HONG: The health benefits of yoga have been celebrated for centuries but not so much these days in Japan. Following a fluke accident in 2014 where a 9-year-old girl sustained a bruised coccyx after an awkward fall out of warrior one pose, parents in Tokyo pulled their children out of yoga studios in droves. It's a hazard, decried one upset mother. All that stretching and deep breathing - the children are too young to withstand that much damage to their bodies. But what is a Zen-seeking parent to do for a safe alternative?
Enter imagination yoga, where the only stretching and deep breathing taking place is inside the mind. At an imagination yoga studio in the wealthy Shoto neighbourhood, a handful of youngsters, all under the age of 12, sit comfortably in loveseats and couches around the room. Although dressed in workout clothes, the students sit nearly motionless as their soft-spoken teacher guides them through imagining various yoga poses.
HONG: It's a wonderful way to get their blood flowing but without any injuries, beamed one parent. Tree pose is her favorite, said another parent. She can hold that pose for almost 15 minutes.
HONG: Well, at least that's what she says.
SAGAL: All right. Here are your choices. Somewhere in the world...
SAGAL: ...Young people are pursuing a hobby which is much gentler than the usual childhood sports. From Maz Jobrani, tickle football in Switzerland, from Mo Rocca, competitive hobbyhorsing in Scandinavia, or from Helen Hong, imaginary yoga in Japan - which of these is the real pacific pastime?
NORM: I'm going to choose - I don't know, they all sound extremely feasible. I'm going to go with the hobbyhorse.
SAGAL: I'm sorry, do you know what the word feasible means?
SAGAL: So you're going to go with the hobbyhorse story. That's from Mo Rocca. Well, we spoke to someone with intimate knowledge of this new sport.
SELMA VILHUNEN: Teenage girls make and ride hobbyhorses very seriously.
VILHUNEN: And they compete, and they practice every day.
SAGAL: That it was Selma Vilhunen. She's a filmmaker from Helsinki, Finland, and she directed "Hobbyhorse Revolution" - a documentary about hobbyhorsing in Finland which, by the way, we had to watch footage from before we believed this was real.
SAGAL: But more to the point, Norm, you've got it right. Mo, for once, was telling the truth.
SAGAL: You have won our prize a well as a point - Mo will get a point, but you, sir, will get Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Congratulations.
NORM: Well, thank you. It was my pleasure.
(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED ARTIST'S "WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE")
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