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Playing Defense: Sound Effect, Episode 198

One of the Fort Casey disappearing guns overlooking the gateway to Puget Sound.
Parker Miles Blohm
One of the Fort Casey disappearing guns overlooking the gateway to Puget Sound.

This week on Sound Effect, the theme is “Playing Defense” — stories of protecting our turf. First, we travel to Whidbey Island to learn about massive forts that were built in the 1890s to protect Puget Sound from invading ships. Then, we hear the story of a gifted Thurston County boxer with a magnetic personality — and a weakness. We learn what it takes for students of color to thrive at a mostly white university. An evolutionary biology researcher helps us understand that, sometimes, viruses are on our side. And we look back at one of the greatest middleweight boxers of a generation. 


Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer recently went to Fort Casey on Whidbey Island with Sam Wotipka, who works for state parks. Wotipka explains how massive forts were built in the 1890s to protect Puget Sound from invading ships — state-of-the-art defense systems that already were white elephants. Now, they’re parks. Learn more and see photos by KNKX’s Parker Miles Blohm.  


You might think of boxing as an aggressive sport — all about going hard after your opponent. But it’s at least as much about defense: avoiding punches, guarding your chin — and protecting and hiding your vulnerabilities. 

This story is about Eloy Perez, a fighter with a weakness — one that didn’t show itself in the ring. He was a star in his hometown in Thurston County: a gifted athlete, a magnetic person. And between his charisma and his meteoric rise, it was easy to overlook the chinks in his armor. More from Sound Effect’s Posey Gruener. 


Going into his freshman year at the University of Washington in 2001, Lull Mengesha felt like he was prepared. He attended high school at Rainier Beach in South Seattle, an honors student who ran cross-country. 

Lull’s family is from Ethiopia, and a lot of students looked like him at school. That changed when he got to college. He soon realized that succeeding in high school didn’t prepare him for being one of the only black students in his classes. 

Now, Lull is reaching out to students like his younger self — including 19-year-old Royce Kelly, a recent Rainier Beach graduate. Listen to their conversation.


Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer calls this story “How I learned to stop worrying and love viruses.” 

This isn’t a story about vaccines or washing your hands or something. This is about how sometimes, viruses are on your side. 

In this story, Harmit Malik, a faculty member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, talks about viruses.


This is another story about a boxer, but from a different era. 

It’s about a famous bout in 1938 — one of the biggest of the period — that took place in what’s now Seattle Center. Sound Effect contributor Max Wasserman brings us this classic underdog tale.

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.