By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
Academy Public Affairs
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould has never been to Eton College in England, but that didn’t stop him from correctly answering two of three questions about the 600-year-old institution during the “Not My Job” segment of National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” recorded at a sold-out event at the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts May 6.
The show, which aired on local NPR affiliate KRCC 91.5 FM Saturday, has an audience of approximately 3 million listeners weekly on 500 NPR member public radio stations, according to NPR’s website.
“Wait, Wait” host Peter Sagal introduced listeners to the Academy in the first minute of the comedy news quiz broadcast.
“The Academy was placed here in the ‘50s in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains so the cadets could rack up flying time by running down the hills, flapping their arms and yelling, ‘Whee!'” Mr. Sagal joked.
The panelists during the May 8 show were Tom Bodett, Paul Prevenza and Faith Salie. Mr. Bodett and Mr. Prevenza are authors and regulars on the show, while Ms. Salie is a contributor to O, the Oprah Magazine and the former executive producer of Public Radio International’s “Fair Game,” which went off the air in May 2008. Sharing stage left with Mr. Sagal was Carl Kasell, a 30-year NPR newscaster.
Ms. Salie asked General Gould about Academy traditions in a manner following the show’s comedic tone: “Is one of the traditions singing ‘You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling’ a cappella? And will you do that for us?”
The general demurred from that song but did perform a little Elvis Presley – “I’ve got those hup, two three, four / occupation GI blues” – to wild applause from the audience.
“Now we’re going to get calls from the West Point guy wanting to do Sinatra,” Mr. Sagal joked.
Amid the discussion with the cast onstage, General Gould talked about the Academy and Air Force missions.
“Air, space and cyber are what we’re all about in the Air Force,” he said. “About half of our graduating class will go on to pilot training. The other half goes into a variety of different career fields to serve across the board.”
“I’m fascinated with the idea of this institution
up the hill that teaches all these kids to fly these jets,” Mr. Sagal said. “I’m trying to teach one of my daughters how to ride a bicycle without training wheels,
and it always ends in tears. How do you teach these
young people to fly vehicles that might actually kill them?”
“It’s all about confidence – building the confidence that young men and women can do something very difficult,” said General Gould, an instructor pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours in KC-10 Extenders, C-5 Galaxy aircraft, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, KC-135 Stratotankers and other airframes.
Mr. Sagal and Mr. Kasell segued into the “Not My Job” segment of the show, titled, “It’s a bit like the Air Force Academy, except they’ve got top hats.”
“Now, the Air Force Academy goes back 50 years – that’s a length of time – but compared to Eton College in Britain, the Air Force Academy is a young pup,” Mr. Sagal explained. “We’re going to ask you three questions about this most famous and oldest of the British public schools. Answer two questions correctly, and you’ll win a prize for one of our listeners: Carl’s voice on their home answering machine.”
The first question related to a longstanding tradition at Eton College, one that dated back to the 16th century and continued until 1983.
“Was it a precursor to getting their callsigns?” General Gould joked.
The multiple choice options – rat hunting, flogging or whiskey drinking – make whiskey drinking, the General’s guess, seem like a rational tradition. However, the actual answer was flogging.
Mr. Sagal asked the next question: “Which of the following might happen in an Eton Field Game match? A, the parthan kicks a twizzle offsides and thus has to camber; B, the bup scores a rouge after hitting off an opposing behind; or C, 14 planets are tallied, but only the key wins the grander.” General Gould answered correctly with “B,” and Mr. Sagal provided more information.
“The way it works is, a bup is like a forward in soccer,” he said. “A rouge is a point you get after hitting the ball off an opposing defender’s body – he’s called the behind – and then being the first person to touch it after it goes behind the goal line.”
“And that’s when the flogging begins,” Mr. Provenza added.
With one correct answer out of two questions, General Gould had a shot to win with the last question: “Once upon a time, only Pop members, or Poppers, had what special privilege? A, they could relieve themselves on a particular tree on campus; B, they were given special canes with which they could beat other students whenever they liked; or C, they were the only ones allowed to chew gum.”
“I think, to be consistent with the floggers, we’ll go with B,” the general said.
“Yes, very good – you are correct!” Mr. Sagal said. “Flogging was an important part of life at Eton, and Poppers could flog whomever they liked.”
“Does the general know what he wins?” Mr. Bodett asked. “A flogging!”
Mr. Sagal wrapped up the segment by thanking General Gould for his service and for appearing on the comedy show, and the audience thanked him with a standing ovation.