Not My Job: We Quiz NFL Defensive Back Charles Tillman On Offensive Words
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
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.
SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. Thank you, everybody. This week, we're jumping on the superhero bandwagon. But, you know, not all superheroes appear in movies or wear amazing costumes or shoot flames from their eyes. That's why we like to expand the definition of superhero to other really interesting people.
BILL KURTIS: Also because Chris Evans blocked our number.
SAGAL: For example, football Hall of Famer Charles Tillman, known as Peanut, was called the greatest defensive back ever to play the game. But even after playing in two Super Bowls, he had a problem believing that our cheering crowd was legit.
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CHARLES TILLMAN: Oh, OK, cool. Well, you know, I'm on the phone, and I can't see y'all. So I do a lot of radio interviews, and they have, like, applause on cue where they hit a button...
TILLMAN: ...And people would clap.
TILLMAN: If y'all are real people, say Peanut on three. One, two, three.
UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: Peanut.
TILLMAN: That's pretty cool.
SAGAL: So you're - you are, of course, one of the great cornerbacks. You actually went to the Super Bowl with the Bears. Not a lot of people can say that, sadly.
TILLMAN: Yeah. Yeah.
SAGAL: Well, you got there. That's all I can say. So I've got to ask because, you know, the Super Bowl is this big event that we all watch, what is it like to be a player involved in it? I mean, you're preparing for a football game, and I understand that's a pretty hard thing to do. Did all the distractions of, like, media week and the week leading up - did that get in the way?
TILLMAN: It didn't get in the way. It was just pretty damn boring.
TILLMAN: I wish I could show y'all a picture. You say the same questions over and over.
TILLMAN: With us, it was, you know, hey, talk about Peyton Manning. You know, I talked about Peyton Manning for five days straight.
TILLMAN: And someone took a picture of me with my head on the table like a bored 5-year-old...
TILLMAN: ...In a kindergarten class getting ready to eat some glue.
SAGAL: I love it. So among other extraordinary achievements, you played against Tom Brady, and you've intercepted, I think, twice in one game.
TILLMAN: Oh, yeah, buddy.
SAGAL: Tom Brady has such, like, a legend about him - greatest football quarterback who's ever lived. I mean, do you guys find that, like, intimidating or, like, inspiring? Like, I'm going to go out and pick that guy off.
TILLMAN: I'm going to take option No. 2. I'm going to go out and pick that guy off. I think he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to play the game. But, yeah, I don't think anyone's intimidated by him. I mean, there was a second-year player that went out and damn near beat him.
TILLMAN: So I don't think players are intimidated by him. I think he knows he has a target on his back. So guys are like, yo, if he's the greatest, well, I want to go against the greatest to see how good I am.
SAGAL: We heard that you played a game when your wife was extremely pregnant and she might've gone into labor at any moment.
TILLMAN: Yeah. So this was 2012. My wife was pregnant. I did an interview with Laurence Holmes. Laurence Holmes asked me the question, hey, what are you going to do if your wife goes into labor before the game? Well, I said, well, hell, I'm missing the game. I'm going to go see my daughter be born.
TILLMAN: A lot of players get ridiculed about how they're not family men, and they're just athletes. But I felt like I was attacked because I made the smart choice, the family choice, the more important choice to go be with my family and watch the birth of my daughter. So after the - literally after the game, my wife now, we go home, she changes and everything, gets her bag, and we go straight to the hospital at, like, midnight. And I have my daughter literally the next day. I had my daughter that night.
SAGAL: Well, that's awesome, man.
TILLMAN: Right after the game.
SAGAL: How's she doing these days?
TILLMAN: Come on, audience. That's when y'all are supposed to go, aw.
AMY DICKINSON: Yeah. We love it. Aw.
SAGAL: He knows what he's doing.
SAGAL: Well, Charles Tillman, it is an absolute joy to talk to you. But we have asked you here to play a game this time we're calling...
KURTIS: Now That's What I Call An Offensive Line.
SAGAL: You know a lot about defense. You were very good at that. But what do you know about offensive lines - that is, things people said or did that offended people? We're going to ask you about three offensive lines. Get two questions right, you'll win a prize for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Charles Tillman playing for?
KURTIS: Diane Schultz of Austin, Texas.
SAGAL: All right. You ready to do this?
TILLMAN: All right - big Austin. Is she on the phone?
SAGAL: No, she's not on the phone.
SAGAL: She is presumably listening at home, though, so, you know.
TILLMAN: I sound real stupid right now talking.
SAGAL: All right. Here's your first question, Charles. During the early days of spaceflight, TV stations would often broadcast the astronauts live. And NASA was worried that one of their astronauts in particular would swear when the whole world was watching him. In order to prevent that, NASA did what? A, they told him that for safety's sake, he had to wear a gag so he wouldn't, quote, "inhale space"...
SAGAL: ...B, through a careful PSYOPS campaign, they convinced him that the most offensive swear he could possibly say was gadzooks...
SAGAL: ...Or C, they hypnotized him so he would hum anytime he wanted to swear?
TILLMAN: I'm going to go with option Charlie. I'm going to go with option C.
SAGAL: Option C - you're right. That's what they did.
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SAGAL: NASA says - they admit they did this - they've never said what astronaut they did it to, but it is absolutely true that astronaut Pete Conrad, while he was on the moon on one of the Apollo missions, weirdly hummed all the time, so...
DICKINSON: Oh, I remember that. Yeah.
SAGAL: We have our suspicions.
All right, Charles - second question. BBC radio goes to great lengths to keep its listeners safe from offensive content. They even put a decade-long ban on what song because they thought it was offensive? Was it, A, Madonna's "Like A Virgin"; B, Ice-T's "Cop Killer"; or C, Bobby Pickett's the "Monster Mash"?
TILLMAN: I'm going to have to go with my guy Ice-T.
SAGAL: You'd think that. It was the "Monster Mash."
DICKINSON: Oh, no.
SAGAL: They said - this was back in the '60s when the song came out. They did not play it for 10 years because they thought it was, quote, "too morbid."
DICKINSON: Well, it was a graveyard smash.
SAGAL: It was.
SAGAL: Last question. Even professional wrestling is not immune to worrying about giving offense. At one time, the World Championship Wrestling organization had to make what sweeping change? A, each wrestler was required to say, I'm just kidding, before trash-talking their opponent...
SAGAL: ...B, instead of heels, wrestling villains were to be called sensible flats...
SAGAL: ...Or C, they were told to stop calling chairs, guitars and ladders brought into the ring to hit people foreign objects and instead call them international objects?
TILLMAN: Based off the audience and them laughing, I'm going to go with the last one. I'm going to go with C.
SAGAL: You're all right. That's what happened.
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SAGAL: Bill, how did Charles "Peanut" Tillman do on our quiz?
KURTIS: We just saw why the Peanut is Chicago's champion.
KURTIS: You won.
KURTIS: Two out of three.
TILLMAN: You have, like, the sweetest voice, man, you know that? You could read me bedtime stories any night.
KURTIS: I'll be there.
SAGAL: Charles "Peanut" Tillman is a former cornerback for the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. He's a recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which was presented by Nationwide. Information about his charity, the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation, can be found online.
Charles "Peanut" Tillman, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
TILLMAN: Hey, thank you, guys. Thanks, audience.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.