6:19 pm, August 21st, 2014
With the possible exception of “Seinfeld” and to a limited extent, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, no TV comedy did sports-themed episodes better than “The Simpsons”. FXX, which is now the new, exclusive, syndication home of “The Simpsons” is currently running the marathon of marathons — airing every episode ever made, back-to-back. This will either kill the franchise, or fortify it for all time.
To celebrate, we give you our take on the best “Simpsons” sports-themed episodes ever. I’ve picked nine for initial induction into the TV Comedy Sports Themed Episode Hall of Fame … please let me know if I missed your favorite.
1.Bart The Daredevil
December 6, 1990. Features two of my favorite things ever: Truck-o-Saurus (which crushes the Simpson family car at the monster truck rally), and Homer falling down the side of Springfield Gorge multiple times, once in a hospital gurney. The still to the left is one of the greatest moments in TV history, as the children watch Homer plummet.
November 9, 1997. Bart's Pee Wee football team is undefeated. But fed up with Homer's constant heckling from the stands (including a beer can thrown at his head), Ned Flanders quits as coach, and Homer takes over. Homer quickly replaces Nelson with Bart at quarterback, and disaster ensues. With Joe Namath, Roy Firestone and Mike Judge, the latter who, if memory serves, voices Hank Hill in a cameo appearance. "We drove a thousand miles from Arlen for this?"
November 8, 1990. Homer achieves fame as Springfield Isotopes mascot Dancin' Homer, for his high-spirited dance to the music of "Baby Elephant Walk". His success draws attention from big league scouts, and he's hired to perform in Capital City. Needless to say, he's eventually fired. Includes one of my favorite Simpsons lines: "Those cornball antics may play in the sticks, but this is Capital City!"
4.Homer At The Bat
February 20, 1992: The consensus favorite sports-themed episode at SportsGrid, which our Jake O'Donnel calls not only his favorite Simpsons episode, but his "favorite thing ever". Due to a large bet with a competing power plant softball team, Mr. Burns replaces his regular players with ringers: Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey, Jr., Steve Sax, Don Mattingly, Ozzie Smith, Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco and Mike Scioscia. But due to various mishaps, only Strawberry can play. Homer eventually wins the game by getting hit by a pitch, and is carried off the field, unconscious, in triumph. Includes one of my favorite lines: "Alright you ragtag bunch of misfits, you hate me and I hate you even more. But without my beloved ringers, you're all I've got. So I, uh, want you to remember some inspiring things that someone else may have told you in the course of your lives, and go out there and win!”
5.Lisa On Ice
November 13, 1994. Lisa, failing gym, joins a Pee Wee hockey team to improve her grade. She turns out to be a great goalie, and eventually faces Bart's team for the championship. Despite their heated rivalry, in the game-deciding penalty shot, Bart and Lisa both drop their sticks and the game ends in a tie. This causes a riot in the stands, and Homer declares them both losers.
6.Lisa The Greek
January 23, 1992. Thinking that her father wants to spend quality time with her on Sundays, Lisa is crushed to discover that Homer is only interested because of her NFL betting skills. Homer begs forgiveness, and Lisa then declares that if Washington wins the Super Bowl, she'll forgive him. If Buffalo wins, she'll forever hate him. Washington then wins (the writers correctly predicting the outcome of the real game).
October 10, 2010. Using Sabermetrics, Lisa leads Bart's Little League team to an unprecedented winning streak. Bart accuses her of taking the fun out of baseball, but Lisa forgives him when she says that he's a good brother 51 percent of the time.
Mr. Burns, high on ether, gives Homer $500 to form a power plant bowling team. But when he snaps out of it he demands a place on the team. The episode is more notable to me, however, for its commentary on school uniforms. When Principal Skinner imposes them, they suck the life and soul of of the children. Then a rain storm turns the drab uniforms to vibrant tie-dye colors, and the children are happy again.
9.You Don't Have To Live Like A Referee
March 30th, 2014. Homer is called to be a referee at the World Cup, and eventually becomes involved in a scheme to throw the title game in favor of Argentina. Lisa begs him not to do it, and Homer agrees, crossing the gangsters who arranged it. The family flees, where Homer witnesses a section of rain forest being cleared for a Krusty Burger.