“What It Was, Was Football”

Andy Griffith died today. For most people of my generation, that means Sheriff Andy Taylor; for others, it means Matlock. For me, Andy Griffith means a comedy routine from before I was born…

I was in Speech Club in high school. I had not grown up in that town; my family moved, on average, just under every four years, so in my freshman year in high school, I was an unknown kid with a strange accent.

A word about accents. If you have a good ear, you can tell from the subtleties of accent whether a person is from your town, or the town just to the east or west (or north or south, depending on where you live). To someone visiting you, all three towns sound identical. A dear friend in college swore to me that all American accents sound the same. I need not tell you she was a foreigner.

Anyway, my high school Speech Club advisor took one listen to my voice and decided my accent was a dead ringer for Andy Griffith’s North Carolina twang. It was not, I assure you, but no one from this town would be able to tell. So instead of something from Pygmalion, or some Neal Simon monologue, or the prologue to The Princess and the Pea, I got to recite “What it was, was football”: (for those of you who don’t share a version of that accent, and the laconic disposition that often accompanies it, you will have a hard time believing that this comedy routine was an absolute blockbuster for its time, and made Andy Griffith a household name.)

What it was, was the beginning of a masterful career, of a man who by all accounts was a good and decent human being. He will be missed.


  1. Cuttlefish says


    It always astonishes me when I run into people who *can’t* hear that–but such people do exist!

  2. movablebooklady says

    I was a big fan of his comedy back in the 1950s. And I used to have a cat whose name was Big Orange (in response to the drunk’s “Buddy, have a drink!” “I believe I will have another big orange.”

    I don’t know where you’re from but I’m from eastern N.C. and yes, we could tell where you were from within about 50 miles.

  3. Pieter says

    I remember the only Southern feller in my Connecticut high school reciting this in the Senior Vaudeville in 1961. That was the first time I heard it. Thank you for posting.

  4. says

    I love that he started as a standup, heard this years ago as a teen. The recording got him a spot on Broadway, which led to the movie “A Face In The Crowd” which really made an impression on me when I was young. And that led to you-know-what.

    His pre-Mayberry career has always been more fascinating to me. Oh and don’t forget him in “Salvage,” which was a beloved TV movie and show for a 1970s space geek kid.

  5. The Ridger says

    That travelogue he did was great too – “all the orange juice you can drink for ten cents!” – hands over a small glass; ‘can I have more?’ – That’s all the orange juice you can drink for ten cents!”

  6. C Rowan says

    I love Andy Griffith. I shared a clip of him explaining Romeo & Juliet to Opie. I loved his description of Hamlet, too. Better than Cliffs Notes. :)

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