Not My Job: Cross-Country Skier Jessie Diggins Gets Quizzed On Skee-Ball Diggins won a gold medal in skiing at the Winter Olympics ... but does she know how to skee-ball? Three questions about the classic arcade game. Originally broadcast March 3, 2018.

Not My Job: Cross-Country Skier Jessie Diggins Gets Quizzed On Skee-Ball

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BILL KURTIS: After the Olympics, we had a chance to talk to one of our gold medalists, Olympic champion cross-country skier Jessie Diggins, who, yes, had heard what Paula had to say.


JESSIE DIGGINS: Wow. Thank you.



So first of all, congratulations. How does it feel to be America's sweetheart?

DIGGINS: Oh, gosh. I don't know about the sweetheart part, but it feels so cool to get to share this sport because, previously, most people didn't know what cross-country skiing was. And now they do, and it's so awesome.

SAGAL: Yeah. Some people, in fact, said rather insulting things about it...


SAGAL: ...If I'm not mistaken.

DIGGINS: Oh, I know. Some people didn't quite know enough about cross-country skiing. But now they're our biggest fan, and that is so cool.



SAGAL: So...

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Jessie, you'll be glad to know that I got - you know, I got a rasher from people...

DIGGINS: (Laughter).

POUNDSTONE: ...Complaining that, you know - what did I know? - and how stupid I was. And they were particularly defending you guys in particular. They were, like, these girls work so hard, they would say.

SAGAL: So you guys on the cross-country team, you heard Paula's little insult?

DIGGINS: Actually, we were in the car on the way from Switzerland to Italy.


DIGGINS: One of my teammates just burst out laughing. She had her headphones on. She goes, you guys, you guys, you guys...


DIGGINS: ...You have to listen to this.

SAGAL: Yeah.

DIGGINS: And it was funny because, I've got to tell you, our fan base may be small, but, wow, they're feisty.

SAGAL: Oh...


SAGAL: ...They are.


POUNDSTONE: No, they were feisty. A lot of them wanted bad things to happen to me.

SAGAL: Yeah.


DIGGINS: Oh, no.

SAGAL: Were you guys...

DIGGINS: Well, to set the record straight, you're welcome to come join us skiing any time you want. I will even let you borrow my skis.


LUKE BURBANK: Oh, I think that would be a bad thing happening to her.



POUNDSTONE: I could sure use the training. Next year...

SAGAL: Yeah.

POUNDSTONE: ...I can put wooden slats on my feet.


DIGGINS: Yeah - and even hold some sticks in your hands.


SAGAL: What I want to know is when you guys toed the line at the sprint relays in Pyongyang, did you say to yourselves, take this, Paula Poundstone?

DIGGINS: (Laughter) I'm sorry. My last thought before the start what not of you, Paula. Maybe it should have been.

POUNDSTONE: Oh, that's all right.


SAGAL: So let's go back a little bit. You grew up in Afton, Minn., which is a small town east of the Twin Cities. And how did you find your way into cross-country skiing, which, as we have determined, is not perhaps the most popular winter sport in America?

DIGGINS: Yeah. My parents were super into it. And so from - when I was a baby, they would put me in their backpack and go on their ski dates every weekend. And so I grew up, you know, pulling on my dad's hair telling him to mush like he was a sled dog or something.

SAGAL: Yeah.


DIGGINS: I'm sure he got a great workout.

POUNDSTONE: It's so lucky that your parents weren't into the luge.


SAGAL: I have to say, it is, of course, a cliche that these sports look easy. You look at speed skating - oh, look. They're just skating along. You look at skiing - oh, you just go down the hill. Cross-country skiing looks incredibly hard because...

DIGGINS: But you know, the funny thing is everyone can do it at entry level. Yes, Paula, even you, despite your complaints. But...


DIGGINS: ...I think the cool thing is, yeah, it's kind of like running a marathon. Maybe not everyone is going to go out and crush a marathon, but everyone can run. And skiing's the same thing. Everyone can try it. Everyone can go skiing. And maybe you don't want to punish yourself as much as we do. I understand. It's OK.

SAGAL: So...

DIGGINS: But everyone should get out and try it.

SAGAL: You got to carry the flag at the closing ceremony, which was awesome. You looked like you were having a tremendous amount of fun at that closing ceremony.

DIGGINS: Oh, man. I really was. I was trying not to skip too much. I was just so excited. I was, like, I'm going to prance right in there.


SAGAL: Was the flag heavy?

DIGGINS: It was, actually. I didn't realize we were going to be waving the flag for, like, 20 minutes. So...


DIGGINS: I'm, like, oh, no. I should have paced myself.

SAGAL: Right.


BURBANK: If only you had experience doing some sort of endurance sport that was...

SAGAL: Yeah, it would have been...


BURBANK: ...Physically taxing.

SAGAL: You could have flipped on your back and waved it with your powerful legs, I guess.


SAGAL: So all during the Olympics, we saw these commercials based around you, which showed the town of Afton, Minn., getting up in the middle of the night to watch you compete.

DIGGINS: Yeah. You know, the cool thing about that is that commercial was based off of that event because it actually happened. Back in Sochi, the Chilkoot Cafe opened their doors at 3 a.m. They were handing out coffee, and all the high schoolers lined up in their sleeping bags on the floor. And they projected the relay race. And like, the whole town showed up to watch it. And it was the coolest thing. I mean, I saw the photo, and I, like, burst into tears.


DIGGINS: It was so...

POUNDSTONE: That is really cool.

DIGGINS: ...Moving to see everyone.

SAGAL: Did they actually film it in Afton, Minn.?

DIGGINS: They did. They filmed it in the actual cafe.

SAGAL: How awesome. And now - four years ago, of course, in Sochi, you didn't do as well as you did this year, of course. And so - I mean, after everybody got up in the middle of night to watch you, were they, like, you'd better win this time, Jessie?


DIGGINS: Yeah. Yeah. If we're brewing coffee at 3 a.m., you'd better make it worth it.


SAGAL: Well, you did. Well, Jessie Diggins, we are delighted to talk to you. We've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Hey, I Rolled a Hundo (ph). Beer Me.


SAGAL: So you clearly know how to ski. But do you know how to Skee-Ball?

DIGGINS: Oh, boy.

SAGAL: We're going to ask you three questions about the classic arcade game Skee-Ball. Answer two of them correctly, and you'll win a prize for one of our listeners, the voice of anyone they like from this show on their voicemail.

Bill, Who Is Jessie playing for?

KURTIS: Ryan Carver (ph) of Long Beach, Calif.

SAGAL: All right. First question about Skee-Ball - the game was invented back in 1908 by one Joseph Simpson. Like a lot of inventors, he had some failures before hitting on the idea that would make him successful, including which of these - A, the first-ever car for fancy people, called the Model V...


SAGAL: ...B, a kind of candy but it's good for you; or C, a standing bed for very small apartments?


DIGGINS: Wow. I can't imagine why any of these would have been a failed idea.


DIGGINS: I'm going to go with the standing bed.

SAGAL: No, it was the candy.


SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: He tried to invent a candy as a health food but couldn't quite get it right, sadly. He should - he just had to wait a hundred years for granola bars.


SAGAL: All right. You still have two chances. There has been a Skee-Ball revival recently pushed by a Brooklyn-based league. It's spread all over the country. They've popularized the game with young people of all kinds. But this league had a setback when they were suddenly sued by whom - A, a player who tried to put a ball in his mouth and then could not get it out...


SAGAL: ...B, a champion player from San Francisco who said, based on his scores, he deserved more than 1,000 Kewpie dolls and/or 1 million Chinese finger traps...


SAGAL: ...Or C, the Skee-Ball company?

DIGGINS: Oh. I guess the Skee-Ball company might make sense.

SAGAL: That's right. It was...

POUNDSTONE: There you go.

SAGAL: ...The Skee-Ball company.


SAGAL: They were justifiably...

DIGGINS: Oh, yes. I got one.

SAGAL: They were justifiably upset that their product had once again become popular. So...


SAGAL: ...They sued the people who did that for copyright infringement.

All right, you have one more chance. If you get this right, you'll win. Skee-Ball's success, back when it started in the arcades of early 20th-century America, inspired a lot of knockoffs. Which of these was a real fake Skee-Ball you could have found in a disreputable arcade - A, Bowlette; B, Hurdle Hop; or C, Pamco Tango (ph)?

DIGGINS: Oh, wow (laughter). Those are amazing names. Hurdle Hop?

SAGAL: You're going to guess Hurdle Hop?

DIGGINS: What was the name...


DIGGINS: ...Of the first one, again (laughter)?

SAGAL: It was Bowlette, Hurdle Hop or Pam Koh Tango.

DIGGINS: I'm changing it to Bowlette.

SAGAL: You're going to go for Bowlette?

DIGGINS: That sounds cute.

SAGAL: Is that your choice?



SAGAL: You're right.

DIGGINS: It is this time.

SAGAL: In fact, all of them...


SAGAL: All of them were, in fact, names...


SAGAL: ...For Skee-Ball rip-offs.


SAGAL: You could also have played Bowl-A-Game, Bally Roll or Chime Ball.

Bill, how did Jessie Diggins do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Jessie with another gold medal - you can hang it up, Jessie. Thank you.


SAGAL: Got to ask - what's more thrilling, the Olympic gold medal or winning this?

DIGGINS: Well, you know, I think what's awesome about this is you totally set me up for success with three correct answers, and I managed to make myself look dumb by changing my answer.


SAGAL: Jessie Diggins is a proud member of the U.S. ski and snowboard team. She won a gold medal for cross-country skiing at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

Jessie Diggins, congratulations, and thank you so much...


SAGAL: ...For joining us. What a pleasure to talk to you.

DIGGINS: Thank you for having me.

SAGAL: Thank you. Bye-bye.

POUNDSTONE: Thanks, Jessie. Congratulations.


CRAIG CHIN: (Singing) Skee-Ball, you're my hero. You're the one I love the most.

SAGAL: When we come back, we're joined by America's mayor - if you assume South Bend, Ind., is America - and a real-live Nobel Prize winner. We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

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