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: Thanks, everybody. Because we are public radio people, everybody assumes we're unathletic nerds, and we aren't any good at sports. And they are, of course, right. But we are interested in talking to people who are good at them.
KURTIS: In 2017, we ventured to San Francisco to talk to the greatest wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice. Although he disagreed - he thought he was the greatest player of all time.
KURTIS: But he didn't always see himself that way.
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SAGAL: Well, let's go back in time. Were you - I assume you were a star athlete growing up, right?
JERRY RICE: No, I was a nerd.
SAGAL: Were you really?
RICE: Yeah. I started playing football around my sophomore year in high school.
SAGAL: I'm somewhat comforted by that. When you say you were a nerd, what...
ROY BLOUNT JR: Too late.
SAGAL: Yeah, I know.
SAGAL: I was hoping you were going to say early 50s. Then I'd be, like, yes, but...
SAGAL: So when you say nerd, what do you mean?
RICE: Very quiet, but I had very large hands.
RICE: And really skinny. So I would walk around with my hands in my pocket all the time because everybody would notice my hands before they noticed me.
SAGAL: Wait a minute. So you're telling me that, like, you were embarrassed as a kid...
SAGAL: ...Because your hands were so large.
RICE: They were so big.
SAGAL: And that ended up being the attribute that helped you become the greatest wide receiver...
SAGAL: ...Of all time, a Hall of Famer.
SAGAL: You are the football equivalent of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
SAGAL: Think about it. Right? Everybody makes fun of him, and then, all of a sudden, they're like, Jerry, will you catch this football tonight? And you're like, I can do that.
RICE: I've never thought of it that way.
RICE: That is amazing.
ALONZO BODDEN: Can I tell you tell that I, too, have incredibly large hands?
BODDEN: It takes more than that to be you.
RICE: Thank you.
SAGAL: I've got one last question, which is that often, the wide receivers line up outside toward the sidelines, and you're often right across from the safety or cornerback who's going to be trying to cover you. Is - what passes between you two guys, as you're looking at him, he's looking at you, and you - he knows that he's going to try to stop you, and you know he's not going to? I mean, did you ever - do you ever, like, trash talk or just...
RICE: No, I just look at the defensive back and I say, you done.
SAGAL: All right, Jerry Rice, we've invited you here to play a game we're calling...
KURTIS: Take a Seat, Joe Montana. It's Time for "Hannah Montana."
SAGAL: We were talking about that. You formed one of the great offensive tandems with quarterback Joe Montana, so we thought we'd ask you about that other great Montana - Hannah.
SAGAL: You're looking at me with a look of confusion. Do you know who Hannah Montana was?
RICE: I have heard the name.
SAGAL: Hannah Montana, just so you know, was a fictional character played by the - on the Disney Channel - by the very real Miley Cyrus. And it was a TV show about a young girl who had a normal life, but her other life was being a pop star named Hannah Montana. That was the plot of the show. So we're going to ask you three questions about that. And if you get two of them right...
SAGAL: ...You will win our prize.
RICE: Are you serious?
SAGAL: I am absolutely serious.
SAGAL: This is so funny because you were talking about your laser stare, your absolute confidence. You are now fidgeting in your chair, looking for an exit. This is...
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Those big hands can't help you now, Jerry.
RICE: Yeah, it's getting hot under here, guys.
SAGAL: Bill, who is Jerry Rice playing for?
KURTIS: Luke McEvoy of San Francisco, Calif.
SAGAL: Ready to do this?
RICE: Let's do it.
SAGAL: All right. When Disney was creating the show back then, they considered a bunch of names based on place names, you know, eventually, like, Hannah Montana. They thought of a name - Alexis Texas. Why couldn't they use that one? A, the state of Texas charges royalties for any commercial use of its name; B, cast member Moises Arias had a thick Castilian accent and he pronounced it (lisping) Alexis Texas or C, Alexis Texas is the name of a well-known adult film star.
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: C.
RICE: I am good. I am so good.
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SAGAL: Yeah, it was C, Alexis Texas. They were afraid what would happen when kid fans of the show were to Google the name Alexis Texas. So it became Hannah Montana. All right.
RICE: So I got that one right.
KURTIS: You bet.
SAGAL: You got that one right, yeah.
SAGAL: All right. Second question. The show "Hannah Montana," which was a big hit - ran for some years - influenced many artists and performers, such as whom? A, actor Eli Roth, who listened to her music to prepare for his role as a stone-cold killer in the movie "Inglourious Basterds" because he said it made him feel insane...
SAGAL: ...B, performance artist Marina Abramovic who, after hearing one Hannah Montana song, conceived of her piece "The Artist Is Present," where she sat in silence for over 700 hours...
SAGAL: ...Or C, Lin-Manuel Miranda, author and composer, who says Hannah's struggles as she tried to become famous inspired the early scenes as Alexander Hamilton...
SAGAL: ...Starts his climb to the top.
RICE: Peter, you know, I've been preparing myself for this all day.
SAGAL: I bet you have - running up and down those hills.
RICE: So you guys are not going to help me out here.
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER: A.
SAGAL: They like A...
SAGAL: ...Apparently. Yes, it's A.
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SAGAL: Eli Roth - apparently listening to Hannah Montana put him in the mood to beat people to death with a bat. All right.
SAGAL: "Hannah Montana" has a lot of dedicated fans, but some of them may surprise you, like which of these? A, Vice President Mike Pence...
SAGAL: ...Who considers her music, quote, "wholesome but danceable."
SAGAL: ...B, actor Stephen Baldwin, who has Hannah Montana's initials tattooed on his shoulder; or C, artist Damien Hirst, who called his installation of a decomposing beef cow The Real Hannah Montana?
SAGAL: If we could weaponize the look of incredulity that Jerry Rice is giving me right now...
RICE: Did you say number two - a tattoo?
SAGAL: I said, Stephen Baldwin, the actor, the answer...
SAGAL: ...Was that he got a tattoo of Hannah - H-M - Hannah Montana's initials on his shoulder. He was so inspired by her - such a fan.
RICE: All right. So I would say C.
SAGAL: You're going to go C, the - Damien Hirst, the British conceptual artist.
SAGAL: Damien Hirst fans put a decomposing cow in a thing and called it The Real Hannah Montana. I wouldn't put it by him, but it was actually the tattoo. It was Stephen Baldwin. You'll be happy or sad to know that Mr. Baldwin now regrets the tattoo.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Jerry Rice do on our show?
KURTIS: His score was two out of three, and you're a winner. That's a win.
SAGAL: Jerry Rice is a Super Bowl MVP and three-time Super Bowl champ. Jerry recently partnered with the National Kidney Foundation to promote kidney health.
Jerry Rice, thank you so much for joining us.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY PEARSON'S "HEAVY ACTION (THEME FROM "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL")") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.