Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Fri February 14, 2014
Not My Job: Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake Gets Quizzed On Winter Sports
Originally published on Sun February 16, 2014 1:13 pm
There are a lot of things most people don't know about Arizona. For example, did you know it has two United States senators? Sure, one senator gets on all the Sunday morning talk shows and runs for President all the time, but it turns out, just like every other state, they've got another!
We've invited Sen. Jeff Flake to play a game called "Dude, that skijoring was sick!" As we enjoy the classic winter sports underway at the Winter Games in Sochi, we'll ask three questions about non-Olympic winter sports.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we're talk to important people about trivial things, it's called Not My Job. There are a lot of things most people don't know about Arizona. For example, did you know it has a second United States senator?
SAGAL: Sure, one senator gets on all the Sunday morning talk shows and runs for President every other year, but it turns out, just like every other state, Arizona has two senators. Senator Jeff Flake of the great state of Arizona, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
SENATOR JEFF FLAKE: Thank you for having me on.
SAGAL: I have to say I was worried that you wouldn't be here by the time we got to this point of the show.
FLAKE: So was I.
FLAKE: I figure if an NFL player can come out as gay, a Republican senator can come out as an NPR listener.
MAZ JOBRANI: But what about in the locker room? We're not going to feel comfortable.
SAGAL: I don't - I just want to say I don't feel comfortable undressing with a Republican, so...
SAGAL: A joke.
FLAKE: What goes on in the cloakroom stays there.
SAGAL: OK, so let's just establish your credentials. You are from Snowflake, Arizona, I've been told, right?
FLAKE: That is true.
SAGAL: And Jeff Flake from Snowflake.
FLAKE: You can believe it or not. I grew up not knowing that flake was a term of disparagement.
FLAKE: There was a safe haven for Flakes.
SAGAL: So you didn't know. When did someone call you a flake, and you realize they were trying to insult you?
FLAKE: You know, the truth is after college, I went to Washington, D.C., for an internship, and I was at a reception. And it came up in conversation with someone that I was from Snowflake. He didn't know my name was Flake. This guy knew somebody from Snowflake. He just couldn't pull up the name.
So he struggled for a while, and I thought I'll narrow it down for him. I said was this guy a Flake?
FLAKE: It was an innocent question. He said no, he seemed perfectly normal to me.
FLAKE: It was then that I knew I'm in for a long, long life.
SAGAL: I understand. You've had a long political career because of course you represented Arizona in the Congress before being elected to the Senate. Has the name ever been - has it ever been used in an attack ad, for example, by an opponent?
FLAKE: Well, my first campaign theme was simply another Flake for Congress. That seemed appropriate as a joke.
SAGAL: Really? So you co-opted the humor.
FLAKE: Well, you know, in Arizona believe it or not, I mean, there are a lot of Flakes.
FLAKE: In fact we have five children. I am one of 11; I have 10 siblings. I have 69 first cousins on my father's side alone.
SAGAL: Good lord.
FLAKE: So when they say that Congress' popularity is down to blood relatives, I'm going to ride that popularity wave for a long time.
BRIAN BABYLON: And you know what they say? They say no two flakes are alike.
SAGAL: That's true. So you're the junior senator from Arizona. Remind me, who's the senior senator? I can't quite think of him.
FLAKE: John somebody.
SAGAL: John somebody. Is it - I mean, he gets a lot of press, John McCain. He appeared on this show, of course, many years ago, and he's always on the Sunday shows. He's always in the news. Do you ever feel a little jealous that everybody's like always running over to talk to him?
FLAKE: It bugs the heck out of me.
SAGAL: Really, does it?
FLAKE: No, it comes with the territory. I feel honored to serve with him. He's been there a while and done a lot of good things, and it's just, it's good to be where I am.
SAGAL: Being - I mean, it's funny because the official term is junior senator.
FLAKE: That's right.
SAGAL: So does that mean that you have to, like, bring the snacks to the cloakroom or rookie hazings or something like that?
FLAKE: Sure, that's just - you know, every junior senator is just one step away from their lifelong dream of being senior senator. John's not one to take a hint, though.
SAGAL: Now one thing you like to do, Senator, is you like to go to remote desert islands and try to survive. Is that right?
FLAKE: I do.
JOBRANI: Like "Castaway"?
SAGAL: Pretty much. Could you describe one of these expeditions? You've done this a number of times now, right?
FLAKE: A couple of times. Five years ago I went by myself. I like to read adventure books and especially sailing adventures gone bad. That's my favorite genre. And I always wonder if I could survive if I was marooned on an island, you know, without anything but the necessities. And so I marooned myself on an island in the Marshall Islands and just took a spear and a magnifying glass to start fires and a mask and...
BABYLON: What kind of one-percenter games are playing?
SAGAL: So I want to - this is true, by the way. This was reported (unintelligible). So what you did was you had yourself dropped off on this island. You brought no food.
FLAKE: No food.
SAGAL: You brought a magnifying glass, as you said, to start fires; a spear, a spear...
FLAKE: To spear fish.
SAGAL: Of course, fish.
KYRIE O'CONNOR: As one does.
SAGAL: As one does. And what else? Did you have a sexy loincloth? What did you have?
FLAKE: No, no, I had a camera. I did take a tripod, and so I wanted to document this and spear a fish. I'd, you know, do a selfie with the fish.
BABYLON: And he had a volleyball named Wilson.
FLAKE: I didn't, but that was the - what most people gravitate to as far as following this is I didn't have a volleyball. But by about the third day, I was a little bored, let's face it, and I was given a Sharpie pen before I left. And I - and these hermit crabs would wander through my camp endlessly. And so by about the third day I found that Sharpie pen, and I picked up a hermit crab and wrote number one on his shell and put him down and just to see if he would re-occur.
FLAKE: And number two a little later. And by the end of the week, I had 126 numbered.
SAGAL: And people say senators never accomplish anything.
SAGAL: So you were just...?
FLAKE: I still miss number 72. I mean, that...
SAGAL: He was cute.
O'CONNOR: How come we don't have a show yet called "Senate Survivor"?
FLAKE: Well, I have been asked that. People say why don't you just go on that show "Survivor." I say I go through enough elections. I don't want to be voted off an island.
SAGAL: Did you learn anything in your experience, in your week of privation and survival and isolation on an island that helps you in your current career in the U.S. Senate?
FLAKE: Well, you know, there's the old poem and song "No Man is an Island," and there is truth to that. You - one thing that I really came back with is the knowledge that there is a heck of a lot of beauty out there. We have a gorgeous Earth here, and so much of it happens every sunset that I watched, seven of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. And were I not there to see it, they would have still occurred.
And there's so much that is great that we just miss completely. When I got back, I tried to share these things, but it's meaningless unless you can share it with somebody.
JOBRANI: You sure you're not a Democrat?
BABYLON: Yeah, Republicans don't talk like this. What's going on?
SAGAL: Well Senator Flake, we are delighted to have you with us, and we've asked you here to play a game this time we're calling...
CARL KASELL: Dude, that skijoring was sick.
SAGAL: As we enjoy the classic winter sports of slopestyle, halfpipe, and the thing with the skiing and the shooting at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, let us remember that not all popular winter sports make it to the Olympics We're going to ask you three questions about non-Olympic winter sports, which I'm sure you're up on, being from Arizona. Get two right, you will win Carl's voice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?
FLAKE: I'll do my best.
SAGAL: All right. Carl, who is Senator Flake of Arizona playing for?
KASELL: The senator is playing for Cassidy Welch of Phoenix.
SAGAL: Not just a contestant, a potential vote.
JOBRANI: It's a vote.
SAGAL: Your first sport is skijoring, which was played in the 1928 Winter Games. It's described by the Atlantic magazine as what: A, like figure skating, but with stabbing; B, like waterskiing behind a dog; C, an unfortunate mix of strip tease and ski jump?
FLAKE: What was that first one again?
SAGAL: The first one was like figure skating but with stabbing.
FLAKE: I'm going with that.
SAGAL: All right, that was - I think that would be a wonderful thing to see, but it was really waterskiing being a dog, that's how it was described. The way it works is you put on some skis, you take some dogs, you put some, you know, leads on the dogs. You attach the leads to your chest, and then you throw some kibble as far as you can ahead of the dogs, and you take off with the dogs, you're good to go. No longer a sport, sadly.
But you have two more chances. So you can still win. Here we go. OK, a sport called acro-ski was tried out as a demonstration sport at the '88 and '92 games, never made the official Olympics. What is acro-ski: A, competitive snow-angel making; B, nicknamed the uphill slalom, competitors ride adjacent ski lifts, first one to the top wins; or C, also known as ski ballet, it's artistic skiing on a gentle slope, with costumes?
FLAKE: We're going with C.
SAGAL: You are right; they're right.
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SAGAL: It is known as ski ballet. Many experts say it didn't make the official Olympic program because of its extreme boringness.
SAGAL: OK, here is your last question. One sport that takes summer fun to the mountain has never got its Olympic due despite a growing fan base. What is it: A, snow kayaking, in which competitors paddle their way down slopes in a kayak; B, winter triathlon, which is a combination of biking, running, and hypothermia; or C, snowsketball, which is just what it sounds like?
FLAKE: I'm going with the audience, A.
SAGAL: You're going to say - you're going to go with your constituents, exercise their will.
FLAKE: I always go with my constituents.
SAGAL: And say snow kayaking. It is in fact snow kayaking, very good everybody.
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SAGAL: You got - you can see videos of it. They use the paddles to steer down the slope. Carl, how did Senator Flake do on our quiz?
KASELL: The senator had two correct answers, Peter, so he wins for Cassidy Welch.
SAGAL: Well done. There's now one more vote. Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Jeff Flake is the junior senator from Arizona.
FLAKE: Thank you.
SAGAL: Thank you so much for being here, Senator Flake, a real pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much. Your senator, ladies and gentlemen.
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SAGAL: In just a minute, Carl gets friendly with a koala. It's the listener limerick challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on air.
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SAGAL: We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.