May 13, 2022


This week, we bring you two stories about little guys trying to do big big things.

First, self-proclaimed animal grinch producer Becca Bressler introduces us to perhaps the one creature that has warmed her heart: a cricket. And more specifically, a male cricket. This is a tale about a tiny Romeo insect trying to find a mate, and the ingenious lengths he’ll go to have his beckoning heard.


And second, producer Annie McEwen journeys through perhaps the zaniest game of football that has ever been played. When a ragtag group of players take on the top team, will it be an underdog tale for the ages or an absolute disaster?

Special thanks to Stephen Spann and Joshua Baxter at the Doris and Harry Vice University Library at Cumberland University as well as Alison Reynolds at Georgia Tech Library. Thanks also to Rick Bell, and to Scott Larson who wrote a book all about this game called Cumberland: The True Story of the Highest Scoring Football Game in History. And finally, thanks so much to our tape syncer Ambriehl Crutchfield for her help with this episode. 

If you’re still interested in learning more about this epic football game, be sure to check out this brilliant and hilarious video by sportswriter Jon Bois.

Lastly, don't forget to check out Death Sex and Money. We recommend episode titled Hard, which is deep dive into our relationship with erectile dysfunction, and the drugs developed to treat it.  

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!


THE LAB sticker

Unlock member-only exclusives and support the show

Exclusive Podcast Extras
Entire Podcast Archive
Listen Ad-Free
Behind-the-Scenes Content
Video Extras
Original Music & Playlists


Hey, I’m Latif Nasser 

LULU MILLER: I’m Lulu Miller - This is Radiolab and today we're gonna start with a story from producer Becca Bressler.

LULU: How did you stumble across this? How did this little guy possess your brain? 

BECCA BRESSLER: Okay, I basically, it was my turn to pitch something and I was in like a dark Airbnb in Portland with my friend in January and just feeling like totally lost for inspiration so I did a thing I actually never do when I’m looking for pitches which is look for an animal story. I don’t really even like animals that much, to be honest. I am  honestly one of those people that I think pets dogs because I'm afraid of being judged if I don't bend down and pet the dogs, like that's, that's how like - animal agnostic, like as apathetic I actually am….anyways so like I’m googling animal science news. Click the animal section, and I came across this little creature that to me struck me as a total genius… 

LULU: Hmmm

BECCA: …and that’s what I wanted to tell you about.

ANNIE MCKEWAN: [clears throat] I’m sort of still eating my breakfast.

BECCA: Also for some balanced reporting I dragged in animal lover - producer Annie McEwen.

ANNIE: Helllooo

BECCA: Okay so this animal lives in these shrubby fields..

RITTIK DEB: …a bushy kind of open landscape…


BECCA:  In India, just outside Bangalore.

RITTIK DEB: It is quite an isolated area.

BECCA:  This is Rittik Deb. He's an evolutionary ecologist at Visva-Bharati University… 

RITTIK DEB: …in West Bengal, India. 

BB: And he says to find this animal, you go out in the evening…

RITTIK DEB: …in complete darkness…

BECCA: …you walk out into the center of this field and just stop. And stand completely still. And wait….. for… their…song.

RITTIK DEB: Generally on an average maybe 10 minutes or so.. 

BECCA: …the song [cricket sound] of… 

RITTIK DEB: [cricket sound] …a cricket…

LATIF NASSER: A cricket?  


LATIF: Really?

BECCA: Yeah.

LULU: Okay…

LATIF: I mean I don’t know that I’d call that a song. I’d call it a chirp.

BECCA: I’m gonna call it a song…alright stick with me here.

LATIF: Okay, alright fine.

BECCA: Okay so these crickets are called tree crickets. And just to give you a visual they’re sort of a translucent green - they’ve got  tiny wings.

RITTIK DEB: They’re around one centimeter long.

BECCA:One centimeter …so like your pinky finger?

RITTIK DEB: Half of a pinky finger I would say.

BECCA: So like a pinky fingernail.

RITTIK DEB: Slightly bigger than that.

BECCA: Slightly bigger than a pinky fingernail, depending on who you are.

BECCA: Is it hard to find?

RITTIK DEB: It depends on where the cricket is. Once it happened that we hear a cricket, and everytime we go to a location it feels like it’s calling from behind us. We turn we go to another location and then it strikes us that it’s calling from within our backpack.

BECCA: Oh my gosh.

BECCA: And their song that Rittik uses to track these little guys down, that is the thing that makes them so interesting.

RITTIK DEBYeah it's a hugely costly phenomenon.

BECCA: Rittik explained that the male crickets who are the ones who sings the songs….

RITTIK DEB: …for three or four hours in the evening…

BECCA: They are doing this to attract mates.


BECCA: Every night a male cricket sings it can lose up to 20% percent of its body weight…

LATIF: Whoa.

BECCA: …overnight. 

LULU:  Huhh…It like sings itself skinny?

BECCA:  Yeah, it’d be like you or I losing like 25 or 30 pounds in one night - just to find a mate.

LULU: Huh.

BECCA: And this is actually a classic conundrum in evolution.

RITTIK DEB: You would find it across so many different organisms.

BECCA: Darwin first noticed it in peacocks. It became known as the peacock puzzle.

RITTIK DEB: Peacock’s tail is such a…

BECCA: So a peacock’s tail, as grand and beautiful as it is, by the theory of natural selection it shouldn't be. By the theory of natural selection kinda shouldn’t be. It prevents them from being able to really fly well. It gets them caught up in bushes easily.

LATIF: Peacocks are absurd. 

BECCA: Totally, totally.  And they really puzzled Darwin.

LATIF: Fashion over function.

BECCA: Exactly.

LATIF: This is classic fashion over function.

BECCA: Totally. And fashion over function in science is actually called just sexual selection. There’s an official term for it, which is that. Darwin eventually figured out females prefer peacocks with extravagant trains and therefore those peacocks mate a bunch more and they have many more offspring and that is why that trait survived. And so these crickets are kind of like the peacocks but instead of having a big colorful tail they have a very exhausting [cricket sound] but super sexy [cricket sound] song [cricket sound] And Rittik would eventually discover, actually, that the sexist songs are the louder songs.  So females like loud songs. But the genius in this cricket, the thing that made me fall in love with them so much, is that some of the little guys give their little cricket middle finger to this beauty standard.

LULU: What does that mean?

BECCA: Okay so let me tell you. One night Rittik is out in the field looking for crickets like he does.

RITTIK DEB: ….another PhD student was helping me with sampling…and then…

[cricket call] 

 BECCA: ….he hears this song.

[cricket call] 

RITTIK DEB:  I hear one cricket which sounds louder than usual…

[cricket call] 

BECCA: ….like louder than he's ever heard before.

[cricket call]  

RITTIK DEB: It's so loud that it feels like it's just near my ears, but there is no bush there. 

BECCA: It's like the cricket is in his head. But not obviously.

RITTIK DEB: Yeah. So we start searching for that particular cricket…

BECCA: …he’s moving through this field…

RITTIK DEB: I’m like trying to [inaudible]  through the top of a bush.

BECCA: It was really hard to locate it.

RITTIK DEB: …we are completely exhausted neither of us can find the cricket – and then suddenly I see that there seems to be a hole in the middle of a leaf and there is a tiny head which is popping out. 

BECCA:: A little hole about the size of a penny in this leaf and inside it the head of a tiny tree cricket.

RITTIK DEB: I was like, what am I looking at? And then I call my friend. Now we are investigating more – like we are looking from the back. We are trying to look from the side. 

BECCA: And what they eventually see is this cricket is rubbing its wings from within this leaf 

RITTIK DEB: It’s calling from the hole of the leaf. 

BECCA: So he’s like, that’s weird. 

RITTIK DEB: Yeah this is something very very unusual. 

BECCA: Because these crickets they’re always on the leaf not actually in the leaf…

RITTIK DEB: My supervisor had given her mobile number and had told that only in case of emergencies you should call. And I frantically search for my mobile and call her immediately.


BECCA: 911

BECCA: …and she told him you know, I've actually heard about this before. It was written about in some paper a few decades ago. 

RITTIK DEB: This was a publication which came out in 1975

BECCA: So what he saw, it wasn’t just some fluke.

LULU: Does it have a name?

BECCA: … they called it…

RITTIK DEB: …baffling…

BECCA: …and the name they gave to these crickets - what they called them were bafflers. 

LULU: Bafflers, okay, why bafflers?

BECCA: So the leaves with the holes are called baffles. A baffle is a surface that reflects sound, basically. 

LULU: Oh, okay so the leaf is like taking the vibrations of their song and shooting it out into the vales.

BECCA: Yeah, basically. 

RITTIK can think of it as a megaphone kind of thing right.

BECCA:  So in other words if you took that cricket out of the hole and put it up on the leaf it would be quiet, if you put it back in the hole it would be loud again. The paper also explained that these crickets in the holes, they didn’t just fall into a hole, they created the holes for themselves. They chewed them with their little cricket mouths and they climbed inside it in order to amplify their song.

[whoa, whoa]

LULU: So they’re like fashioning a tool? 

BECCA: Exactly. 

LULU: Like a little insect tool?

BECCA: Exactly. 

LULU: Wow, wow okay, that is smart.

BECCA: Crazy right?

LATIF: That’s pretty cool.

LULU: Yeah, okay, yeah I see it.

BECCA: But this raises a very real and interesting question for Rittik.Does it work? Like we said before when it comes to these crickets…

RITTIK DEB: …females generally preferred the louder individuals. 

BECCA: Louder is better. sometimes they have to settle for a quiet cricket.


RITTIK DEB: Based on how much energy you have spent searching….

BECCA: Ah your standards lower…

RITTIK DEB: Exactly.

BECCA: …very relatable.


BECCA: But if given the choice…

RITTIK DEB: It will always go for the louder ones.

BECCA:  And it's not even just that a female cricket prefers a louder cricket to a quieter cricket, she’ll actually mate with that louder cricket for longer than she would that quiet cricket And here Rittik has found a quieter cricket pretending using this megaphone thing to disguise itself as a loud one - and so the question is…

RITTIK DEB: …Do the females actually get deceived?

BECCA: Like do they treat this cricket like a loud cricket, like do they stick around and mate with it for longer?  Or, can they spot the con?

LULU:  Is she like I’m being punked.

LATIF: Catfished…Yeah.

LULU: Or is she like yeah, let's do it…whatever.

RITTIK DEBIt will all boil down to the point whether the female can catch the bluff.

BECCA: So Rittik did an experiment and what he found was that female cricket…

RITTIK DEB: …it will mate with a quiet cricket, whose call has been amplified by using baffle, with that of a truly loud individual who already calls at that particular loudness. 

BECCA: The female crickets mated with the bafflers just as much as the naturally loud crickets.

RITTIK DEB: So it was like - wow, indeed, the cheating is working. 

BECCA: It's just - ingenious. Like this little cricket that by no fault of its own, isn't supposed to mate that much has found this incredibly clever way of leveling the playing field of sort of like playing with the big dogs and like keeping himself in the fight. 

LATIF: But, like to me, I don’t know I'm like a little hesitant because like, considering it from the female side…

LULU: Yeah. 

LATIF: What the hell like this is false advertising. LIke the idea of sexual selection, as I understand it, is that the peacock’s tail or loud cricket chirp that suggests genetic strength. And the reason that it lasted for so long in the cricket world is because loud guys are better mates that are going to produce stronger offspring who are more likely to survive. So now with this kind of hack…this is, this is a bait and switch..

LULU: …a lie…

LATIF: …like, this is not, this is not fair. 

BECCA: But this cricket is a genius. Like I guess that's where I come in is… 

LATIF: …But is he an evil genius? Is the question. 

BECCA: No, I know. I've self-reflected on this a lot and whether or not like I should be ashamed that I am endorsing this type of deception. However a couple other ways you could think about it, the loudness might signal this is a good one and I should spend more time mating with it. And so whether that is a cricket that is just naturally louder or a cricket that has figured out a way to make its own calls louder like that is a pretty, that trait like I don’t know I feel like that deserves some recognition.

LULU: I don’t know though, like it’s still a lie. It’s still a trick. This is the animal that wooed you over to liking animals…

BECCA: Yes, it is. And okay,I guess the other reason why I want to defend the male cricket is, so like in the peacock, peacocks have developed these beautiful trains because females choose and they like big pretty trains right. So it’s like this whole sex of peacocks has adapted just to be chosen as a mate. Used for its body if you will. Now my feeling about his male cricket is it feels like in a way what we are seeing is crickets not narrowing in into some like homogenized version of the cricket that is most likely to get chosen. This cricket is like fighting for itself. It’s like I might not measure up to your beauty standards but I deserve to survive so I’m gonna find another way of doing that. 


LATIF: Producer, animal lover, Becca Bressler.

BECCA: I wrote a song about the cricket. 

LULU: Oh sing me this song.

BECCA: Can you guys give me a beat? I guess it’s like [concussion sounds]

BB: [Singing] They rub their wings so they don’t die alone, they use the leaves as megaphone, they spread their seeds to get the ladies goin’, they use the leaves as megaphone

[laughter and cheers]

LULU: Next up, we’ve got another underdog story for you. But we are leaving the fields of India and heading onto the fields of the American South. 

LATIF: Latif.

LULU: Lulu.

LATIF: Radiolab.

LULU: Next up, we've got another story about some little guys trying to do a big thing.

LATIF: Okay, let's just huddle up, circle up.

ANNIE: Yeah circle up, circle up.

LULU: What are you here to tell us about?

LATIF: Yeah.

ANNIE: Yeah, great question, okay.


LULU: From producer Annie McEwen.

ANNIE: Alright, let's do it.

ANNIE: Okay, so picture a college football field in Atlanta, Georgia.

LULU: What season? It’s Fall.

ANNIE: It's Fall. It's October.

LULU: Okay.

ANNIE: And it's a warm day. It's like 70 degrees plus and it’s humid and the fans are cheering from the stands as the players jog out onto the field. Georgia Tech versus Cumberland University. The game is about to begin. A familiar scene in the US today.

LATIF: Yeah.

ANNIE: Except these players, instead of bulky pads and giant shiny helmets, are wearing little leather caps and knitted socks pulled up to their knees. Because this game happened in 1916.


LATIF: Okay.


LULU: Okay.

ANNIE: And the spectators in these stands are about to witness history. Something that could never be repeated. Because this football game should never have happened.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Well, that wasn't just a football game because that's ridiculous. Who would do that?

ANNIE: Here to help me explain is Cumberland history professor Dr. Tara Mitchell Mielnik.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: I am a ninth generation Tennesseenian, so we—we've been here a while. [laughs]

ANNIE: So—so this game, this football game. When did you first hear about it?

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: I don't really know. I feel like I've just always known about it. I think that's kind of one of Cumberland's claims to fame, or infamy maybe. I'm not sure.

ANNIE: Okay. So let's just begin, um, if you could just tell me what happened.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Okay, so back in 1916, [MUSIC IN] Cumberland had had some financial difficulties,

ANNIE: The university needed to tighten its belt, cut its costs.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Decisions had been made. Football had been cut out, and Cumberland no longer is going to have a football team.

ANNIE: Now a game schedule had already been drawn up for that season, so Cumberland had to reach out to all those schools and say ...

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: We're sorry, but we don't have a football team. We're not gonna play.

ANNIE: And every school said, "No problem." Except for one.


ANNIE: The letter they get back from Georgia Tech University says something like ...

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: You are under a contract. This is a legal contract. If you don't play this game, we are going to sue you for $3,000.

ANNIE: $3,000 back then is like $80,000 today.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Some people say it was gonna bankrupt the school, it was gonna close the school.


LATIF: Why was Georgia Tech being so stubborn about this? Why not just let them off the hook like everybody else?

ANNIE: Well, this part of the story is a bit murky but according to legend, Georgia Tech was pissed off at Cumberland.


ANNIE: And not just anyone at Georgia Tech—specifically their head coach, a man named John Heisman.

[ARCHIVAL CLIP: The power, the magic of the Heisman trophy.]

ANNIE: Have you guys heard of John Heisman? 

LATIF: Oh, yes.

LULU: The Heisman Trophy.

[ARCHIVAL CLIP: Before I let you go, who's the Heisman Trophy winner?]

[ARCHIVAL CLIP: The Heisman Trophy could be decided in this SEC Championship.]

ANNIE: So the Heisman Trophy is handed out to the best college football player every year.

[ARCHIVAL CLIP: Hello Heisman.]

ANNIE: And it's named after the most famous college football coach in history.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: No one can deny the genius that is Heisman in football.

[ARCHIVAL CLIP: [inaudible]]

ANNIE: This guy invented the hut. 


ANNIE: The snap back to quarterback.

[ARCHIVAL CLIP: [inaudible]]

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Credited with popularizing the forward pass. 

[ARCHIVAL CLIP: …back to Cornell Jones, it’s caught, DeAndre took him.]

ANNIE: Without him football just wouldn't be the same sport.


ANNIE: He kind of looks like this terrifying God. High cheekbones, strong stern brow. 



ANNIE: And his coaching style was sort of godlike as well. You know, we don't lose, don't show weakness. He was sort of famous for opening each season with a speech to his players where he would hold up a football and look them all in the eyes and say, “Better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football.”

LATIF: Whoa!

ANNIE: Yeah.

LATIF: And why was Heisman so angry at—at Cumberland?

ANNIE: Well, as the story goes, it all had to do with this Cumberland student named George Allen.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: George Allen, apparently is kind of the big man on campus.

ANNIE: He's 20, clean cut. Ordinary looking white guy from the 19 teens. Huge into frat parties. Everyone's favorite bro dude.

LULU: Got it.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: He's the student manager of both the baseball and the football team.

ANNIE: And when Cumberland canceled the football team, George Allen had this idea, and it was this idea, the legend goes, that would make Heisman so pissed.

LULU: Okay!

LATIF: Okay.

ANNIE: So George Allen, he's feeling school spirit drop. And one day, he's like ...if Cumberland baseball—if the Cumberland baseball team can really hit it out of the park at their next game, then maybe the loss of the football program won't sting so much.

LULU: He's trying to show the world the school’s still sporty.

ANNIE: Yes. So he sneakily hires all of these minor league players... these professional baseball players.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Quote-unquote ringers. Guys that—who weren't technically Cumberland students.

ANNIE: To put on the Cumberland college uniform and play in this, like, upcoming baseball game. And who are they playing? They're playing Georgia Tech's baseball team.


ANNIE: Which for some reason is also coached by John Heisman.

LATIF: Oh no!

ANNIE: Yeah.

ANNIE: And the game is a complete blowout.They're these professional players playing these kids basically. And they're just like getting bored, hitting everything. At some point they just start bunting.

LULU: So unfair!

ANNIE: And they eventually win… 

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: By a score of 222 to nothing.

ANNIE: Cumberland school spirit is back. But..John Heisman is not happy.

LATIF: Yeah, I can see why.

ANNIE: So when Cumberland says, "Hey, we're not gonna make the game in Atlanta this fall because we canceled our football team," Heisman basically says, "Up yours, George Allen. We're playing the game." But the problem is Cumberland does not have a football team.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: We've eliminated our football program.


ANNIE: And so, George Allen steps up.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: And says, here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna play this game.


ANNIE:  But there is no football team. So what does he do?

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Basically, George Allen just starts recruiting on campus.

ANNIE: Petitioning all these young law students.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: In their late teens and early 20s.

ANNIE: These lithe, pale figures that you can see in the halls of the library or out partying.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: They were not anti-party. Let's just put it that way. [laughs]

ANNIE: And George Allen is like …

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: We need your help, the school needs your help. Alma mater is asking for your help kind of thing.

ANNIE: And people step up.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Somewhere between 16 and 18 students.

ANNIE: Do they—have they played football before?

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Some of them have. A couple of the guys had been football players, like, in high school so there is some sense of what does this game look like and how do we play this game. It's not like they're complete novices, but…

ANNIE: Right.They quickly scrambled to raise money for hotel rooms and train tickets. And when the big day arrives…

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: There's a huge send off in Lebanon.

ANNIE: Everyone comes out to cheer on the boys who volunteered to save their school.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: You know, they're waving banners, big signs that say things like "Wreck Tech."

ANNIE: Oh, wow.

TM: And then they catch a train and go to Atlanta.

ANNIE: And before we go to Atlanta, I'm gonna bring in Radiolab's Production Coordinator, W. Harry Fortuna. Because Harry, I think is the only one amongst the four of us who knows anything about football.

HARRY FORTUNA: I'm here to help.

ANNIE: Okay.


ANNIE: October, 7, 1916, Grant Field, Georgia Tech University. A thousand Tech spectators in the stands.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: For Cumberland, it would have been a big crowd. They would have been probably a little bit in awe of the number of people who had come out for this game. It reminds me a little bit of that scene in Hoosiers [SOUND EFFECT] where the basketball team goes into that great big stadium and they're kind of like [SOUND EFFECT], “Oh my goodness.” [LAUGHTER]

ANNIE: This is big.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: And they don't have equipment managers, they have to all carry their own equipment and…

HARRY: They had barely any pads. It's those old leather helmets, leatherheads.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Barely more than a hat on your head.

HARRY: I don't even think there were mouth guards.

ANNIE: On the sidelines, suited up with the rest of the players, George Allen says a few words.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: We're just trying to make this work. We got to play this game and get home.

ANNIE: And as the ref flipped the coin up into the air and it fell flashing in the sun, turning over and over and over, there was this feeling from the Cumberland side that maybe…

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: We could do this. We could really do this. Turns out to be something they're going to talk about for the rest of their lives. [laughs]

ANNIE: Because from the very beginning, things start to go sideways.


TM: Georgia Tech wins the toss, and they elect to kick off.

ANNIE: They kick the ball, it flies through the air. It's caught by a Cumberland player who turns to see the wall of Georgia Tech players hurtling toward him—and he freezes. Edwards, the Cumberland quarterback, uses his body to block an oncoming Tech player and is immediately knocked out cold.

LATIF: [chuckles]

LULU: Oof.

ANNIE: The guy holding the ball is also flattened. And Cumberland …

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: They can't get out of their own territory.

ANNIE: They end up punting it, but… 

HARRY: The punt only goes 20 yards.

LATIF: Not a lot.

HARRY: Not a lot.

ANNIE: Tech gets possession of the ball and immediately runs it into the end zone.

HARRY: A touchdown for Georgia Tech.

LATIF: On the first play.

ANNIE: And I just want you guys to go ahead and access that YouTube file that I sent you guys.

LATIF: Oh, great okay.

ANNIE: Um, because this is a song that plays every single time Tech gets a touchdown.

LATIF: Okay, hold on—hold on, let me play.

LULU: Okay.

[ARCHIVAL TAPE, Song: …from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer. A hell of a, hell of a, hell of a, hell of an engineer…]

LATIF: Hell of an engineer.

LULU: [mumbling] … hell of an engineer.

ANNIE: Georgia Tech kicks for the extra point, and after less than a minute of play the score is Tech seven, Cumberland zero. And that first touchdown is just the beginning. Georgia Tech begins to run that ball over the line again and again and again and again. Touchdown after touchdown after touchdown after touchdown. The home crowd is losing their minds. And very quickly ...

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: It becomes pretty apparent this is—this is gonna be a problem.

ANNIE: They are getting clobbered.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: They're being tackled.

ANNIE: Hit in the face or the head with all kinds of body parts.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Your arm, your head, your shoulder, just whatever it takes to bring him down, that's football.

ANNIE: Quarterback Edwards is back in the field but is immediately knocked out again.

LULU: Oh, come on! [laughs]

ANNIE: He's carried off the field again.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: And basically every time Georgia Tech touches the ball, they run it into the endzone.

ANNIE: Pretty quick, the Cumberland players realize that this is gonna be bad.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Just a ridiculous slaughter of a football game. They do finally get to halftime.

ANNIE: What's the uh score right now?

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: The score at halftime is 126 to nothing?

LULU: 126 to nothing?


TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: And many of these players now would have been pulled out for concussions. They would not have been allowed to continue. But it's a different time.

ANNIE: In a normal game, there would have been just a forfeit. But if Cumberland does forfeit, then they will have to pay the $3,000.

LULU: Pay the money.

ANNIE: So they have to stay to the end of the game.


TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Gotta keep going.

ANNIE: And Heisman?

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: He was not holding back. He does not trust George Allen. He's like well maybe he brought in some ringers and George Allen is over on his sideline just trying to exhort his team he's like okay, “We're halfway there guys. Just stick it out.”


ANNIE: Halftime came to a close.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: We can do it. We can do it. We just got to get finished.

ANNIE: And now that the goal of winning has been fully abandoned and it's just all about running out the clock, all kinds of instincts kick in: survival, fight or flight. Some Cumberland players begin to run away from Tech players. There's even one Cumberland player that he's like, "Every time Tech got the ball, I turned around and I ran with the Techs." And that was the way that he was, like, trying to protect himself.

LULU: Oh my God!

ANNIE: Once in a while it sort of felt like they had a chance. Like, there was this one play where a Cumberland player has an open field to the goal line. He is running, he is going to make it ...

LATIF: [gasps]

LULU: Cumberland! Cumberland!

ANNIE: But no, he falls. He trips over one of his own teammates who was on all fours looking for his glasses.


ANNIE: Third quarter begins. Our friend Edwards, he was knocked out twice. He is back in the game.

LATIF: Okay.

ANNIE: Someone gives him the ball. He throws it to a teammate, who throws it back. Neither of them want the ball.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: If you don't have the football, you can't be tackled.

ANNIE: So they're standing there tossing it back and forth, and back and forth and back and forth.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: So it was like a hot potato football.

ANNIE: Until a Tech tackler comes and just creams them both. And Edwards is carried off the field a third time.

LATIF: Oh Edwards.

ANNIE: We have Peewee, a law student who was told he would not have to touch the ball. He gets thrown the ball. He panics, he flings the ball away. He runs and hides behind a fence where two other Cumberland players are already hiding.


ANNIE: Yeah, they do not want him to give away their hiding place so they throw him back over the fence.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: There was one story where Heisman looks over at his bench and he's like, I don't know that guy. He goes over and says, “Aren't you a Cumberland player?” And the guy says, “Don't tell them.”

ANNIE: Cumberland player, uh his name is Johnny Dog Nelson. He is chased around the stadium by an actual dog.

LULU: So we’re full like Looney Tunes cartoon right now?

ANNIE: Absolutely.

LULU: Okay.

ANNIE: Okay, so we're nearing the end here and this is like a kind of amazing moment because Cumberland is like—like, there's blood in the grass, there are broken noses, poor Edwards is knocked out for a third time. These people are destroyed [CHEERING]. They have nothing left.

LULU: Score right now?

ANNIE: Score is 173 to zero.

LULU: Wow. Okay.

ANNIE: There's no hope for these guys. But for some reason, they find it in their hearts to rally. And so Cumberland, they're in a huddle or whatever talking about their next play.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK:  It must have been either a kickoff or they're blocking an extra point.

HARRY: Walk-off field goal?


ANNIE: And someone proposes this climb the ladder play that has since been made illegal.

LULU: Oh God.


ANNIE: And some of the Cumberland players are like No, no, this is suicidal. We shouldn't do this. But then this young guy, Vishy Woods. He's blonde, he's got like a nice smile. He volunteers. He's like, I'll do it. And can you imagine, like, the crowd must be freaking out right now. Because, like, watching a team rally when they're so low.

LULU: I know I love that, I love it.

ANNIE: It's amazing. So one player gets on all fours, grabs the knees of a second player who bends over at the waist and grabs the stomach of a third player.

LULU: What?

ANNIE: As Georgia Tech's kicker kicks the ball, the fourth player, Vishy Woods, he charges at them, runs up their backs and leaps into the air as high as he can.

LULU: What?

ANNIE: He flies through the air with his arm outstretched reaching for the ball, but his fingers just miss and instead of blocking the ball with his hand

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Vishy takes it to the face.

LATIF: Oh yeah.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Breaks his nose, probably has a concussion.


LULU: Wait, but but…

ANNIE: What?

LULU: He blocks it?

ANNIE: He does block it.

LULU: He blocks it?

ANNIE: So the score would have been higher if it weren't for Vishy Woods.

LULU:  Vishy Woods!

ANNIE: Yeah, he blocks it with his face.

LATIF: Eesh!

ANNIE: The game ends soon after with a final score of 222 to nothing.

LULU: Wow.

HARRY: There were 19 total touchdowns that Tech scored.

LULU: And was that the highest ever at that point scoring?

ANNIE: Yes. And that is actually still the highest today it's in the—it's in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest scoring game.

LULU: Oh wow, okay.

ANNIE: I was just, like, trying to imagine what was the end like—like, the final whistle blown on that final minute.

TARA MITCHELL MIELNIK: Lay down and try to catch your breath and determine—you know—is anything broken. Just exhaustion and frustration.

ANNIE: These guys are literally total losers, but they made it to the end, the end of the game and they saved their school from financial ruin.

LULU: Did they go out for steak dinners? Did they go out and party?

ANNIE: Apparently they did—apparently they went out partying that night in Atlanta like with their swollen eyes like barely able to see anything, but apparently they did.

LATIF: Ah, even Edwards?

ANNIE:I don't know about Edwards, yeah.

LULU:  I'm still like, I want a Vishy Woods tattoo and I…


LULU: I can't not love that. So Vishy Woods!

LATIF: Producer Annie McEwen.

LULU: All right. Well, before we go, I just wanted to tell you about a new series that just came out from our colleagues over at Death, Sex and Money. It is called "Hard." And its about—it's about erectile dysfunction. [laughs]

LATIF: [laughs] I was—I was curious how you were gonna say that exactly. Yeah.

LULU: Yeah, and well—and as a woman married to a woman, I wasn't sure if there was gonna be much in there for me, but with Anna Sales hosting, it turned out there really was. It's—I mean, there are these frank conversations about what intimacy can be. And there is a really wild history of the invention of Viagra, and the totally shocking physiology of—of how the drug works—I didn't know any of this. It just—it's a series that ends up having a lot of—of joy in it. By the end, it really kind of moves—I guess it's like it moves past the idea that, like, erectile dysfunction even is dysfunction.



Copyright © 2022 New York Public Radio. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use at for further information.

New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of programming is the audio record.