BILL KURTIS: Finally, one of our favorite interviews of the year. In August, we travelled to San Francisco and talked to a man who is a legend in the Bay Area - former San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice. He's often called the greatest wide receiver of all time, but it turns out Mr. Rice disagrees.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
JERRY RICE: Peter, can I...
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
RICE: Excuse me. Can I add something to that, Peter?
SAGAL: By all means.
RICE: Yeah. You know, yeah, the greatest receiver to ever play the game, but I like to think of myself as the greatest player to ever play the game.
SAGAL: OK. Forgive me.
RICE: Just joking.
SAGAL: Yeah. That's the hardest job in the field, I think, because you have to concentrate on catching this very fast-moving object coming at you, but you know that as soon as you catch it, somebody's going to try to kill you.
RICE: That's true.
SAGAL: Does that weigh on your mind as you're reaching up to get the ball?
RICE: No, I just run very fast.
SAGAL: Well, let's go back in time. Were you - I assume you were a star athlete growing up, right?
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 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.
RICE: You're done.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Have you ever - you know how people - like, I forget. There was a baseball player's daughter or a baseball owner's daughter that caught a baby one time not too long ago.
BLOUNT JR.: She claims she caught it.
POUNDSTONE: A baby, like, fell out of a window, and she caught the baby.
RICE: I'm sure I could do that, too.
POUNDSTONE: That's what I was going to ask you - not if you had caught a baby because we would have heard about that. But was there ever something other than a football that you happened to catch, and it was just like, my God, he's such a great catcher.
RICE: I have caught many things.
RICE: But my favorite - it was a football.
POUNDSTONE: Your favorite was a football.
SAGAL: I imagine if you did catch a baby falling, God forbid, from a window, you'd hand it back to the person and say, OK. This time I want you to throw it harder and longer. I'll be...
SAGAL: I'm going to run a (unintelligible) pattern. I want it over my - I want the baby over my left shoulder when I...
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're 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. 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...
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 Alexis Texas...
SAGAL: ...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.
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.
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: OK. 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.
SAGAL: That does it for part 2 of our year-end review show. Support for NPR comes from this station and from the Epstein Family Foundation, in support of the David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna Memorial Fund, established to support NPR's international journalists. Their coverage and their commitment to providing the news of the world to audiences back home. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation, recognizing exceptionally creative individuals - this year's MacArthur fellows and more information are at macfound.org. And the Ford Foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide to address inequality in all of its forms - learn more at fordfoundation.org.
WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is a production of NPR and WBEZ Chicago, in association with Urgent Haircut Productions. Doug Berman - benevolent overlord. Philipp Goedicke writes our limericks. Our house manager is Tyler Greene. Our intern is Gianna Capadona. Our web guru is Beth Novey.
Special thanks to the Revival Food Hall in downtown Chicago for giving us some food. B.J. Leiderman composed our theme. Our program is produced by Jennifer Mills and Miles Doornbos. Technical direction is from Lorna White. Our CFO - that's Colin Miller. Our public address announcer is Paul Friedman. Our production coordinator is Robert Neuhaus. Our senior producer is Ian Chillag. The executive producer of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is Mike Danforth.
Thanks to everybody you heard on our shows today, including, of course, Bill Kurtis, all our panelists, every guest we spoke to, all of our listeners and, of course, as always, the amazing Carl Kasell and, of course, you, all of you, for listening. I'm Peter Sagal, and we will see you next week.
SAGAL: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.