Competition with the Biggest: Podcast Winner Fact-Checked Family Story


Each family has the story that is told a thousand times; swapping during family reunions, over holidays, birthday parties. Sometimes the edges change or details are added. But the form of the story is always there. For the NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge, one of our two big prize winners decided to check out one of the family stories. Education Reporter Elissa Nadworny got the story when she visited the winner on campus at Penn State University.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: For Mirriam Colvin, the family story she kept hearing was about a fight. Her grandfather was usually the one who told it. But by the 20th time Mirriam heard it, it was kind of everyone’s story.

MIRRIAM COLVIN: It’s almost a phone game. You hear how it goes through people.

NADWORNY: Here’s the general form of it. A young Indiana farm boy is facing a fight against a 14-year-old child from Kentucky. Mirriam did not know if the story was real or how official this fight was.

COLVIN: I thought maybe it was just a little fight.

NADWORNY: She says her grandfather would always keep the same colorful details as a child. This is what involved her. The peasant boy, the family friend – he does not win. He is praised.

COLVIN: I liked how he said his face looked like a bag of doorknobs. And that just – (laughs) I do not know. The little things like that just loved me.

NADWORNY: Every time she hears it, it can be told a little differently, but the ending was always the same. That slender 14-year-old who beat the peasant boy to a pulp – his name was Cassius Clay. If we do not know that name, you may know him by the name he changed to years later – Muhammad Ali, the greatest.

COLVIN: You hear from Muhammad Ali. You do not hear of all these crazy people he boxed along the way, like getting where he needs to go.

NADWORNY: This is how Mirriam Colvin changed the story in her winning podcast entry.

COLVIN: I actually checked it out, and it’s going out, guys (laughs).

NADWORNY: Let’s listen.


COLVIN: The story of the underdog is one we all know very well. But what happens if that underdog is so sure of himself, so confident and without any notions that he might be over his head? Competition can sometimes be healthy, so the risks can leave you with one hell of a story, regardless of the loss.

NADWORNY: Mirriam told us that she discovered the real main character in her research.

COLVIN: I think we always thought our grandfather was the one who fought. And then we found out, no, it was this guy named Crumb, and he was this tough guy.

NADWORNY: Here’s more of the podcast.


LARRY: He was the tough guy, you know? He always beat the hell out of everyone.

NADWORNY: This is her grandfather, Larry. He remembers that his good friends, the Hueber brothers, thought Crummy Lynch was a good enough boxer, he should be famous.


LARRY: They decided they had to take Crummy Lynch on the road. There’s a place in Louisville called ‘Tomorrow’s Champions’.

NADWORNY: Mirriam actually found the TV recordings of ‘Tomorrow’s Champions’, but unfortunately there is no sound. And she interviewed Carl Hueber, her friend of her grandfather, who drove Crumb after the game, about a video chat about the pandemic. The tire is a bit tight.


CARL HUEBER: Our game plan was not to take him out the first or two rounds, but on the third round, which is what – it has three rounds. And we have to take him out during the third round, because we have to get airtime. We’re going to be on TV.

NADWORNY: Of course, the match did not go as planned. But Crumb – he did get a few hits; an achievement to be certainly proud of. In the end, the true outcome was always as Mirriam heard it. Cassius crushes Crumb. Interviews with both Carl, who was there, and with her grandfather, who had only heard the story for 50 years, led to some deviations. Like, what was Crummy Lynch wearing?

COLVIN: Larry said he came out of the locker room and was almost in a swimsuit and a tank, and that was his outfit. But Carl said he was wearing tights and that he was wearing military boots. And I think he was helpless.

NADWORNY: Her grandfather, Larry, listened to Carl’s interview during a video chat.

COLVIN: He stays like Carl, that was wrong. And I would say, so, guys; stop fighting (laughs). Let’s keep it cool.

NADWORNY: Mirriam’s podcast is an oral history in many ways. Her grandfather Larry is getting older, and so is Carl Hueber. Now this family story can live on for many other families. Crummy Lynch, the Indiana peasant boy fighter – after Mirriam made the podcast, she discovered he was still alive, and he listened to the episode. Mirriam – she’s going to interview him next.

Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, State College, Pa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.