John U. Bacon: Old MacDonald Went To College | WYPR

John U. Bacon: Old MacDonald Went To College

Jul 31, 2014
Originally published on November 25, 2015 8:49 pm

John U. Bacon, the author of Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, knows a thing or two about college sports. At their core, it's all about "the community," he told Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg in their chat at the University of Michigan's Power Center in Ann Arbor.

"Bob Ufer, the old announcer here, had a great line. He said, 'Michigan football is a religion, and Saturday is the holy day of obligation.'"

We're not above making smart people act silly for the enjoyment of our radio audience. In a game entitled "Old MacDonald Went To College," we pitted Bacon against former U of M football player Mike Williams, and asked them to imagine the famous farmer in his college days. If Old MacDonald went to Clemson, what sound would he make? "ROAR!"

Heard in Episode 323: Smitten With The Mitten State

This segment originally aired on September 4, 2014.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. We're live from the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. I'm Ophira Eisenberg...


EISENBERG: ...And with me is our one-man house band Jonathan Coulton and our puzzle guru Jonathan Chaneski.


EISENBERG: And let's welcome the New York Times best-selling author and a regular right here on Michigan radio, John U. Bacon.


EISENBERG: I have to ask by the way, what is the U in - what's your middle name? What's the U? Is it University?

JOHN U. BACON: I never tell this, actually.

EISENBERG: Oh, really?

BACON: We're divulging this for everybody but - Underhill, if you can believe it.

EISENBERG: Underhill?


EISENBERG: I can believe it.


BACON: I couldn't.


EISENBERG: Many years of dealing with that. But I like it because we were trying to figure it out. Now, obviously you write and talk a lot about college sports. Why is America obsessed with college sports?

BACON: It's the only team that you're really attached to. The Red Wings could go to Nashville and what do you have? The Dodgers go from Brooklyn to LA - Michigan is not going to go to Jacksonville for a better stadium. We know this.

EISENBERG: Right, so it's all about, basically, the community that it brings with it?

BACON: The community - Bob Ufer, the old announcer here, had a great line when he said Michigan football is a religion and Saturday is the holy day of obligation.

EISENBERG: (Laughing) That's amazing.


EISENBERG: All right, well, we're going to throw you in the puzzle hot-seat right now and we found a worthy opponent. Please welcome Mike Williams.


EISENBERG: Welcome, Mike. Now you - you played football for U of M.

MIKE WILLIAMS: That's right.



EISENBERG: You said it was an experience you'd never forget. Why specifically?

WILLIAMS: Well, I grew up playing football and I always wanted to play Michigan football. And when I got here, it was just a great experience coming in with my teammates - some are my brothers still to this day. I talk to guys weekly, daily - some of the guys - just the things that - everything you think of playing college football: the good, the bad, the stuff you can't talk about on radio, everything, you know?


BACON: No, no keep going.

EISENBERG: What's one thing you can't talk about on radio?


WILLIAMS: No it was just a great time. I'll never forget it. Michigan is true to my heart. My sister went here. I had cousins who went to school here. My niece and nephew are looking forward to going here. So we're a true blue family, and I got some great stories to tell.


EISENBERG: All right, so here's your game. It's called Old MacDonald Went To College. And just like in the song, you will be making animal sounds.


EISENBERG: But in this case, we're going to ask you to make sounds based on the name of various college sports teams. Let's go to our puzzle guru John Chaneski to tell us what that means.

JOHN CHANESKI: If we said Old MacDonald went to Clemson, you'd go roar because the team is the Clemson Tigers.


EISENBERG: You're like easy, got it


EISENBERG: So you have to make the sound...


EISENBERG: ...To get the points.

BACON: This is being recorded, right?

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

BACON: OK, good.


BACON: You guys know I live here, right? This could not go well.

COULTON: Not for long, not for long.

EISENBERG: So you have to make the sound to get the point, and then we're going to ask you a follow-up question based on that animal that either of you can ring in for and answer. And the winner, of course, is going to move on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Let's give it a shot.

WILLIAMS: All right.

EISENBERG: Old MacDonald went to South Carolina.




WILLIAMS: Gobble, gobble. They're a Gamecock, I don't know.

EISENBERG: I don't think that's what they say.


WILLIAMS: I don't know what a Gamecock says.


COULTON: Let's see if John knows what they say. What do Gamecocks say, John?

BACON: Cock-a-doodle-do.

COULTON: I'm going to give it to John - cock-a-doodle-do.

WILLIAMS: Oh, come on man.


EISENBERG: I've seen this image. It's half chicken, half monster. You guys - since the 1950s, a green, red and yellow rooster named Cornelius has been the mascot for what popular breakfast cereal.



BACON: Corn flakes.

EISENBERG: That is correct - Kellogg's Corn Flakes.


COULTON: Old MacDonald went to Drexel.


CHANESKI: Think about it.

BACON: We are.

WILLIAMS: He's a sportswriter.


BACON: Like I said Mike, I live here man, be cool.


COULTON: This is a fantasy character and you might want to think about "Game Of Thrones."

BACON: Oh, phantoms.


WILLIAMS: Dragons - roar.

COULTON: Not bad, I'll take it Mike.


COULTON: That was an eerie impersonation of a dragon.


COULTON: Honestly, for a second I thought there was a dragon here in the room.

WILLIAMS: Well, I can't breathe fire so, you know, this was my best shot.

COULTON: That was great, that was great. Nobody knows what they sound like because they're all dead.


COULTON: What superstar actress used to have a dragon tattoo on her left arm, but replaced it with a tattoo of the geographic coordinates of the birthplaces of her six children and her longtime partner?



BACON: Angelina Jolie.

COULTON: That's right.


EISENBERG: Old MacDonald went to Indiana state.



BACON: Whoosh.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that is right. And the...

BACON: The Sycamores.

EISENBERG: The Sycamores.

CHANESKI: Was sort of a trick question.

COULTON: Yes, not really fair at all.

EISENBERG: I was hoping for something like that. A rustle, rustle. You did a lovely breeze through the leaves.

BACON: I was actually working on that backstage so - you never know.

EISENBERG: I hope I can use this.

BACON: You never know, right?

EISENBERG: What California University located in Palo Alto, or tall tree, has its mascot - a tall tree - that dances on the sidelines at sporting events.


WILLIAMS: Stanford University.

EISENBERG: That is right, Mike.


COULTON: This is your last clue - Old MacDonald went to the University of Oregon.



BACON: Quack, quack, quack.


COULTON: That's the sound of a very jaded duck.

BACON: Half an hour ago, I was a professional. So...

COULTON: Indeed sir, quack, quack is correct.


COULTON: The website for the City Council of Glasgow, Scotland, has a list of famous Glaswegian's, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, comedian Craig Ferguson and what wealthy animated fowl?



WILLIAMS: Scrolling through a list of all of the animated fowl, trying to figure out which one is wealthy. Sam Horn Brag Worn?

COULTON: I'm sorry, that is incorrect. John, do you have an answer?

BACON: Scrooge McDuck?

COULTON: That's right, Scrooge McDuck. John Chaneski, how did they do?

CHANESKI: In Old MacDonald Went To College, it looks like John is going to the winner's circle. Way to go, John.

EISENBERG: All right.


EISENBERG: That was a great competition. We'll see John at the end of the show. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.