It's impossible to overstate the brilliance and cultural impact of 'The Simpsons'. It's the reason why most of us think what we think is funny is funny, whether we'll admit it or not.
It's just as impossible to agree on what constitutes the "golden age" of the show. Everyone agrees that there's a certain time frame in which 'The Simpsons' was the best show on television (and possibly ever), but we all have a different interpretation of when that era started and stopped. Some people think it was the first 9 or 10 season. Some people narrow that down to 1-8. Some people with impossible f**king standards think it peaked from seasons 3-5, or even 4.
For this week's Sports On TV column, I used the most generally agreed-upon definition of the show's prime: season 2 through season 8. Tackling the best sports moments of a monster like 'The Simpsons' is tough, so consider this a Part 1 of its own series, destined to include a Part 2, Part 3, and even a Part 4, should we delve into those wretched, later season guest star hives like "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass".
So please enjoy the 20 best sports moments from the golden age of 'The Simpsons,' and be sure to drop us a comment and share your love. Special thanks to Ari Amaru for the screencaps.
More Sports On TV: Saved By The Bell | Full House | King Of The Hill | The Wire | The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air | Parks And Recreation | Married... With Children | 30 Rock | The Brady Bunch | The Three Stooges | Glee
Episode: "Homer Defined" (season 3, episode 5)
What Happens: A panicked, barely-trained Homer uses eeny, meeny, miny, moe to push random buttons and saves Springfield Nuclear Power Planet from a meltdown. He's named Employee of the Month, earned the respect of his daughter and even given a congratulatory phone call from NBA Hall Of Famer Magic Johnson, but he gets progressively more and more bothered by the fact that his heroism was just dumb luck. History repeats itself during a horrible motivational speech at Shelbyville's plant, and when everyone observes him being stupidly lucky instead of smart or competent at his job, "Homer" goes into the dictionary with the definition, "to succeed despite idiocy".
Key line: "Is this really Homer Simpson?" "Yeah." "Wow. Homer, I just used our last time-out to call and congratulate you on averting that nuclear holocaust."
This episode features two big firsts:
1. The first time a character said "ass" on the show, the first two times in fact, before the Fox censors got ahold of it and replaced both of them with "butt". There is nothing more awkward than somebody saying butt when they mean ass. Ass is a totally different connotation.
2. 'The Simpsons' has had too many sports guest stars to name (especially in later seasons, when plots are "Homer goes to the London Olympics! Guest stars ALEX MORGAN HOPE SOLO ABBY WAMBACH LOLO JONES GABBY DOUGLAS MCKAYLA MARONEY MICHAEL PHELPS RYAN LOCHTE LEBRON JAMES JUSTIN BIEBER"), but Magic Johnson was the very first. And unlike a lot of modern guest stars whose roles are to say "Hey Bart" and to smile while Bart goes "WOW, MIGUEL CABRERA OF THE DETROIT TIGERS" or whatever, Magic isn't afraid to deliver weird lines about holocausts and even "pull a Homer," accidentally draining a shot while slipping. Michael Jordan would never let you make him look like that. Jordan couldn't even play with the Looney Tunes without having them kiss his ass every five seconds.
Episode: "Homer At The Bat" (season 3, episode 17)
What Happens: If I didn't have a "Last Exit To Springfield" moment coming up, this is where I'd declare season 3's "Homer At The Bat" the greatest Simpsons episode ever. It's the kind of episode that inspires wistful retrospectives from The Onion A.V. Club and Deadspin 20 years later.
In it, Homer's success on the power plant's softball team (thanks to WonderBat, carved from a lightning-struck tree branch) leads to Mr. Burns making a million dollar championship bet with the owner of the Shelbyville Power Plant, then replacing everybody on his team with ringers from Major League Baseball. Those ringers, voiced by the players themselves, include Hall Of Famer Ozzie Smith, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, Don Mattingly, and pretty much everyone else who was important to baseball in 1992.
Key line: "You are all very good players." "We are all very good players." "You will beat Shelbyville." "We will beat Shelbyville." "You will give one hundred and ten percent." "That's impossible. No one can give more than one hundred percent. By definition that is the most anyone can give."
How do you write a two paragraph blurb about "Homer At The Bat"? I could've made an entire Sports On TV column from the moments in this one episode. Actually, here, I'll do that. Here's Sports On TV: The 15 Greatest Sports Moments From "Homer At The Bat".
1. Barney and Wade Boggs getting into an argument about whether Lord Palmerston or Pitt The Elder was England's greatest Prime Minister, then fighting about it.
2. Mr. Burns' original fantasy roster, prompting this amazing line: "I'm afraid all of those players have retired and, uh ... passed on. In fact, your right-fielder has been dead for a hundred and thirty years."
3. Roger Clemens being hypnotized into a chicken, which we know in the Simpsons universe is a permanent condition. The best part: teenage Mindy McCready had sex with a giant chicken.
4. Mr. Burns apparently having no idea what sideburns are, and Don Mattingly shaving tracks up the sides of his head in an attempt to remove them.
5. Ken Griffey Jr.'s delivery of the line, "Wow. It feels like a party in my mouth, and everyone's invited."
6. Ken Griffey Jr. getting hooked on Brain and Nerve Tonic, the demon drink that caused him to sleep his way out of baseball years later.
7. Ozzie Smith falling into (and assumedly dying in) the "Springfield Mystery Spot," an otherworldly portal featuring floating physics equations.
8. Steve Sax being arrested and thrown in jail for the rest of his life, which is hilarious, because f**k Steve Sax.
9. Jose Canseco being nice enough of a guy to take a pay cut to play for the team AND save a woman's washer, dryer and piano from a fire, yet still enough of a dickhole to charge children for autographs.
10. Darryl Strawberry's tears.
11. Mike Scioscia's dream job involving radioactive waste, big machines and cool dials, three things that come in handy when coaching Albert Pujols.
12. This song, even though Griffey's head was swollen, not his jaw:
13. This fact from the episode's Wikipedia page:
The episode has been credited with helping to save several lives. During the scene in which Homer chokes on a donut, a poster explaining how the Heimlich maneuver works is on the wall behind him. In May 1992, Chris Bencze was able to save his brother's life by performing the Heimlich Maneuver on him, having seen it in the episode, and in December 2007 Aiden Bateman was able to save his friend Alex Hardy's life by recalling the same.
14. "You're Darryl Strawberry!" "You play right field." "Yes." "I play right field too." "So?" "Well, are you better than me?" "Well, I've never met you, but ... yes."
15. Homer's walk-off win.
(Guest contributor Peter Holby)
Episode: "The Homer They Fall" (season 8, episode 3)
What Happens: Moe discovers Homer has a rare condition making him impervious to blows to the head, which he and Homer parlay into a successful run of boxing victories over bums, hobos, tramps, and vagabonds. Lucius Sweet, a Simpsons-universe Don King stand-in, offers Homer and Moe a title fight against Mike Tyson stand-in Drederick Tatum, fresh out of prison. Moe talks Homer into taking the immense payday, but when it becomes clear that Tatum is on his way to killing Homer in the ring, Moe steals the Fan Man's paraglider and airlifts Homer to safety.
Key line: "I got nothing against him, but I'm definitely gonna make orphans of his children." "Uh, you know, they do have a mother, champ." "Yes, but would I imagine that she would die of grief."
The episode really benefits from their getting the stand-ins right, where they're closer to matching the tone of their real-world counterparts than they are caricatures. Hank Azaria's Tatum is a charming, tender man who pushed his mother down the stairs and almost kills Homer. That said, their take on the Fan Man, may he rest in peace, isn't so accurate. I mean, I assume it isn't, Fan Man's only distinguishing characteristic is that he fell on a boxing ring and then got beaten up by about 30 people.
The episode is another strong example in how the Simpsons forecasted a lot of ideas and trends that would surface in later pop culture. Homer's boxing strategy centered around the idea that the best way to block a punch was with his face. That's a strategy employed by numerous modern MMA fighters, to great effect. Consider the first fight between Stephen Bonnar and Forrest Griffin, the culmination of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Both men used The Simpson Strategy, putting on a fight that gave Dana White the three-quarterest three-quarter wood he'd ever had. The rest is history, MMA has exploded on the sports world and is almost certainly well on its way to becoming bigger than the NFL. Is it possible to credit Homer Simpson's unusually thick skull for that? I don't see why not.
(Guest contributor Josh Kurp)
Episode: "Saturdays Of Thunder" (season 3, episode 9)
What Happens: Homer takes a fatherhood quiz and realizes he knows next to nothing about Bart, so, with a little help from Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood, he builds a soapbox racer with his son. During a qualifying race, Bart becomes intimidated by Nelson’s vehicle, the Roadkill 2000 (“It took me months to steal that bumper”), and joins forces with Martin, whose racer...actually works. Sort of. Martin wins the race, but injures himself in the process, due to a malfunctioning parachute.
While recovering in the hospital, Martin asks Bart to drive his racer for him, which he agrees to, choosing the new ride over the one he made with “Team Simpsons.” Homer pouts, Mayor Quimby stares at the boobs of the lady in the fourth row, and Springfield is treated to a race “the world has not seen the likes of ... since the French carried Lucky Lindy off on their shoulders from Le Bourget Field”.
Key line: "Okay, Bart, we've got a lot of work to do on the car, so I'm going to pull you out of school for the next couple of weeks."
“Saturdays of Thunder” is an episode that feels out of place. It originally aired November 14, 1991, during season three, right when The Simpsons was evolving from a great sitcom to the greatest sitcom of all-time. In fact, it’s bookended by “Lisa’s Pony” and “Flaming Moe’s,” two classics, and has always reminded of season two’s “Dead Putting Society” to me. That’s not to say it’s a bad episode — there are no bad episodes of The Simpsons between seasons 2-13, especially when McBain’s involved — but not unlike the soapbox derby plot, it hasn’t aged well, either.
Except for the line, “The compound fracture, truly one of football's greatest injuries.” That one’s as brilliant now as it was then.
Episode: "Dead Putting Society" (season 2, episode 6)
What Happens: Homer finds out that neighbor Ned Flanders has a functional relationship with his wife and children and becomes ENRAGED, deciding that the only way to one-up a man who has done nothing wrong is to force Bart into a miniature golf competition against Ned's son. A bet is made wherein the father of the losing child must mow the winning child's father's lawn in his wife's Sunday dress. It all goes down at Sir Putt-A-Lot's Merrie Olde Fun Centre, and eventually Todd Flanders and Bart decide the stress isn't worth it, declare the game a draw and leave both fathers doing yardwork in dresses. Homer can't even get joy from this, because being in a dress reminds Flanders of his fraternity days. D'oh.
Key line: "Come on, Bart! Remember what Vince Lombardi said: If you lose, you're out of the family!"
This episode is key to the early dynamics of Homer Simpson. In earlier episodes, you understand that Homer loves his family and wants the best for them, but is also at the whim of his sudden emotional mood swings and can end up abusing them or putting them in harms way to make a point. It's the very real, natural thought process of a loving, yet stupid and confrontational man. In current episodes, Homer is only capable of pulling a 'Scrubs' thing where he's an aggressive asshole for 21 1/2 minutes, then goes "aw I'm sorry I actually love you and feel deep emotions" in the final thirty seconds for pathos he didn't really earn.
The message of this episode is a great one that doesn't get expressed enough on television without a Disney Channel denouement: kids shouldn't worry so much about stuff like miniature golf tournaments, because they're kids, and adults have a way of making everything around them frustrating and stupid.
Also, early Ned is choice. "You are my brother. I love you. And yet, I feel a great deal of sadness in my bosom."
(Guest contributor Bobby Big Wheel)
Episode: "Homer The Heretic" (season 4, episode 3)
What Happens: Homer refuses to go to church with his family on a frigid Sunday morning. While Marge and the kids freeze through overlong and dull services, Homer gets to sleep in, dance in his underwear, make waffles of dubious nutritional value and watch some fantastic football. To top it all off, he finds a shiny penny on the floor. Homer then renounces Christianity and starts his own religion after meeting God in a vision; he finds out that the Man Upstairs would rather watch football than go to a church on Sundays as well. But ultimately Homer comes around to the benefits of organized religion after a multi-denominational group of neighbors saves him from a burning house.
Key line: "Oh, Doctor! A 98-yard triple-reverse ties the score at 63--63! We have seen nothing but razzle-dazzle here today, three visits from Morganna the Kissing Bandit, and the surprising return of Jim Brown."
I have my own beefs with organized religion that go beyond inopportune timing for services, but that doesn't mean my religious parents robbed me of much football growing up. As observant Jews watching TV on Saturdays was discouraged so I missed out on college football until I got out of Dodge. And I had to go to Hebrew School on Sundays through high school, which meant I always missed the start of games. By the time I got home for the 2001 NFC Championship Game the Giants were already up 14-0. So kudos to the Simpsons for pointing out that organized religion will do nothing but make you miss awesome football. Also, you can tell that Springfield is located on the West Coast because Homer gets to see the end of a game by the time the family gets back from church.
Episode: "Lisa On Ice" (season 6, episode 8)
What Happens: Homer gives Bart all of his love and attention for being the star player of his hockey team, but when Lisa becomes the star goalie of HER team, battle lines are drawn. "Okay Marge, its your child against my child. The winner will be showered with praise. The loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore!" After a bitter rivalry and too many great moments to name (including Marge stealing and coveting Milhouse's teeth, Homer snapping a towel at Uter and making him run despite being "full of chocolate" and references to both Rollerball and The Pope of Greenwich Village), Bart and Lisa throw down their gear and hug, letting the game end in a tie. The arena riots.
Key line: "Cheer up! So you're not good at sports: it's a very small part of life." "Sports, sports, sports, sports, sports, sports, sports, sports ... Marge, Bart rides up in the front seat today because he's a good guy at sports."
I almost went with the simpler, timeless, "HEADS UP LITTLE GIRL".
"Lisa On Ice" is one of the best pure Simpsons sports episodes because it puts the characters into the sport in a realistic way (Bart and Lisa join local Pee-Wee League teams, they don't suddenly become starters for the Rangers and run into Mark Messier or whatever), and it discusses very real sports themes, like the importance of respect and the ridiculous attitudes of local sports parents. Homer's attitude here is funny because it is exactly right. I can't tell you how many gym classes I spent cowering in the back of the dodgeball gathering because the teacher wanted to show us how good of a guy certain people were at sports.
Also from this episode:
Episode: "Bart Star" (season 9, episode 6)
What Happens: It's from season 9, so it's not technically from the "golden era," but it's too good to leave out. Homer becomes the coach of a pee-wee football team and favors Bart over star quarterback Nelson Muntz, a decision that Bart hates and gets him threatened by the rest of the team. Training deep into the night, Bart has a chance encounter with legendary New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, whose car has broken down nearby. Broadway Joe agrees to help Bart, but bails when his wife announces that she's fixed the car. "It was just vapor lock!"
Key line: "You know, we had a lot of fun tonight. But, there' snothing funny about vapor lock. Its the third most common cause of stalling. So please, take care of your car and get it checked. I'm Joe Namath. Good night!"
If I didn't work on a network with a site dedicated to Joe Namath's drunken sexual harassments I'd claim this appearance as the best thing he'd ever done. You know, Super Bowl win aside.
Doing these Sports On TV columns has taught me that Joe Namath and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the easiest sports legends to get on your sitcom. Kareem shows up everywhere, from 'Full House' to 'The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air' to 'Guys With Kids'. He even has a Simpsons appearance in the later seasons. This is Namath's second Sports On TV appearance, following his epic championship win alongside Bobby Brady. I can't wait to write about him showing up to help Dawson win Joey back from Pacey, or whatever.
Another reason why this episode was included in the golden age list:
Episode: "Dancin' Homer" (season 2, episode 5)
What Happens: In the earliest sports moment on the list, Homer attends 'Nuclear Plant Employee, Spouses and No More Than Three Children Night' at a Springfield Isotopes game, gets drunk, does a funny dance in front of everybody to 'Baby Elephant Walk' and unexpectedly becomes a star. He adopts the character of Dancin' Homer and becomes the official team mascot, a role popular enough to earn him a fill-in spot for the Capital City Capitals' mascot The Capital City Goofball in the Big Leagues. The family says their goodbyes to Springfield and heads to the big city, then immediately make the walk of shame home when little-fish-in-a-big-pond Homer is booed off the field and fired.
Key line: "Oh, my God! I don't believe it! It's really you! The Capital City Goofball!" "Hello, Dancin' Homer. Glad to have you aboard. If there's anything I can do for you, just squeeze the wheeze."
I'm still a little sad that the real-life AAA Dodgers affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes took the Isotopes name from 'The Simpsons' but didn't find a way to work the Capital City Goofball (or Dancin' Homer, for that matter) into their schtick. I would fly from anywhere in the country to meet the for-real Capital City Goofball.
"Dancin' Homer" works well as a cautionary tale about local success translating into mainstream success, and how you should be thankful for what you have and go for your dreams, but not necessarily put EVERYTHING into them. Sometimes you can make a bunch of people laugh by hip-thrusting to 'Baby Elephant Walk'. Sometimes people want you to get off the dugout and bring back the thing they're used to. One of the great successes of the early Simpsons is that they existed not only in a CITY full of familiar, well-defined characters, but in a WORLD of them. Capital City's a whole new ballgame.
Episode: "Last Exit To Springfield" (season 4, episode 17)
What Happens: "Last Exit To Springfield," about Homer becoming President of the power plant's labor union and leading its workers in a strike to get back a dental plan (because Lisa needs braces) (dental plan) (Lisa needs braces), is the closest thing you can get to an objective Best Simpsons Episode. It is a truly epic 22 minutes, touching on everything from Buster Brown to The Beatles ("'elp us") to Batman to the infinite monkey theorem to How The Grinch Stole Christmas! and f**king 'Classical Gas'. In its great sports moment (because it really includes EVERYTHING), 'The Simpsons' gets to the heart of the pro wrestling industry by dressing up two guys as stupid characters, then killing one of the two.
Key line: "Now stay tuned for professional wrestling live from Springfield Grappelarium. Tonight a Texas death match: Dr. Hillbilly versus the Iron Yuppie. One man will actually be unmasked and killed in the ring!"
Homer's response to watching the match announcement is pitch-perfect wrestling fandom: "I hope they kill that Iron Yuppie. Thinks he's so big."
The creators of 'The Simpsons' really got what makes pro wrestling a thing, something they prove again in 'Futurama' with The Foreigner ("I'm not from around here! I have my own customs!"). This is one of two great golden age Simpsons wrestling moments, followed a few years later by former WWF Champion Bret Hart moving into Mr. Burns' mansion and complaining about the old man stink. As a lifelong wrestling fan, my only two regrets from these moments are that we didn't get to see the Shrieking Sheik (to confirm whether or not he's the one we've got in real life), and that we never found out who survived that Grappelarium card.
My money is on Dr. Hillbilly. Wait, no, Hillbilly wins, but then Iron Yuppie cashes in his briefcase.
(Guest contributor John Canton)
Episode: "Team Homer" (season 7, episode 12)
What Happens: Moe's bar is empty one night, so Homer and Moe decide to head to the bowling alley for something to do. When they get there they realize it's league night. Homer ends up forming a team with Moe, Apu and Otto. The problem is registration is $500 and despite all of them having jobs, that is apparently too much money. Homer gets the money from Mr. Burns, who was drugged up at the time. When the team, know as "The Pin Pals," was in the finals of the bowling tournament Burns showed up to participate.
Key Line: "Come on Homer! Come on Homer! Pretend this is baseball and hit us a homer!" Homer hits a strike and tells his team: "By the way rhyming Homer with Homer? *mwah*"
There are a few Simpsons episodes with bowling involved ("are poo and ass taken?"), but this is my favorite one. The scene where Burns says he wants to join the team only to fail to move the ball more than a few inches was awesome. It was even better when Smithers ran down to the pins to knock them down like the lackey that he is.
I think my favorite name of the bowling teams was The Stereotypes because any time you can get Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel, Luigi, Groundskeeper Willie and Sea Captain on screen at the same time you know it's a winner. Then Apu was shown with his head in his hands saying that they begged him to join the team. Brilliant.
The guys wanted Homer to kick Burns off the team, but Homer had a tough time doing it because Burns is his boss. They played it out with Burns on the team (he bought them Pin Pals uniforms after all) and miraculously won the tournament against the Holy Rollers thanks to Otto causing a disturbance using the claw machine. Burns ended up taking the trophy for himself, which pissed off the team. Homer went to steal it at Burns' house, but that didn't work because the dogs were after him and that ended the episode with the team abandoning Homer.
The bowling part is the main plot of the episode, but Bart's misbehavior leading to the school wearing uniforms is pretty good too. That was the beauty of 'The Simpsons' in their prime. It wasn't just about one story. They had depth.
Episode: "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment" (season 2, episode 13)
What Happens: A Sunday School lesson about the Ten Commandments scares Lisa, who believes that her cable-stealing father has broken the Eighth Commandment and will go to Hell for it. Homer throws a watch party for the "THE BOUT TO KNOCK THE OTHER GUY OUT!" boxing pay-per-view, but Lisa's conscience (and eventual out-on-the-lawn protest) guilt him into dragging his family out into the yard, not watching the fight, and assumedly saving their souls. After the fight, Homer cuts his illegal cable line and accidentally cuts power to the entire neighborhood.
Key line: "It's Watson-Tatum 2. This time ... it's for money!"
MacLean's magazine's Jaime J. Weinman, on "Homer vs. Lisa and the Eighth Commandment":
"[It was] the first truly great episode — the one that established The Simpsons as the funniest and most multi-layered sitcom around. The story of Homer stealing cable was an excuse for dozens of parodies of early 90s cable TV, but it was also a story about Homer and his daughter and an examination of how we rationalize little acts of theft in our daily lives."
Hell, I'm in it for the pre-fight banter between Watson and Drederick Tatum, who both dedicate their performance to the memory of Watson's manager Vinnie and get into a fight about it. By the way, if you need a really great Simpsons trivia question, Watson lost to Tatum by knockout in the tenth round. Would've been a tragedy for The Bout To Knock The Other Guy Out to end in a decision.
Episode: "Marge Be Not Proud" (season 7, episode 11)
What Happens: Bart gets caught trying to shoplift a copy of the popular video game Bonestorm ("Buy me Bonestorm or go to Hell!") and is warned by security guard Don Brodka that he'll be sent to juvenile hall if he ever steps foot near the Try-N-Save again. That foot-stepping happens when Marge takes the family to get a Christmas photo taken at the same store, where Brodka informs Marge of her son's crime. Overcome with disappointment, Marge grows distant and leaves Bart out of family activities, like decorating the Christmas tree. Attempting to repent, Bart visits a different Try-N-Save, pays for a photo of himself in full, and redeems himself in the eyes of his mother. To show her gratitude, Marge buys Bart the popular video game everybody wants: LEE CARVALLO'S PUTTING CHALLENGE.
Key line: "Don't do it, son. How's that game going to help your putting?"
One of the most strangely sad moments of my pop culture life was finding out that Lee Carvallo wasn't real. Like finding out those kids didn't really die and abandon their video tapes in the Blair Witch woods.
"I am Carvallo" cracks me up every single time. And hey, people who made the game in the Simpsons universe, if you're wondering why nobody bought or rents your game, it's because you put out a golf title in 1995 requiring you to hit "787" to swing. What's it for, Atari 5200?
(Guest contributor Peter Holby)
Episode: "Mother Simpson" (Season 7, Episode 8)
What Happens: Entering the room while Abe is engrossed in Super Bowl III, Mother Simpson has her heart set aflame by Joe Namath's flowing locks. Abe, still clinging to his plastic fantastic world, prefers to orderly, regimented hairstyle of Johnny Unitas.
Key line: "Look at them sideburns! He looks like a girl! Now, Johnny Unitas, there's a haircut you can set your watch to!"
My grandfather threw a party for Super Bowl III, and the reason he did was that Namath guaranteed a win. If Broadway Joe said it, it was going to happen. Namath was drunk when he made the boast, and he only did it because was arguing with a Colts fan, and if there's anything pro athletes need to do it's win bar arguments with fans. What I'm getting at here is that Joe Namath is the spiritual father of the modern New York Jets, and indirectly the reason you've had to suffer an endless stream of Rex Ryan soundbites for the past three-plus years.
If this makes you angry, I suggest you spend more time looking at Namath's glowing tresses. Life's better that way. Consider their respective endorsement deals. Namath modeled pantyhose on account of how shapely and good looking he is, while Unitas is stuck shilling Krustariffic mustache removal systems.
"So, what do you think of the Lady Krusty Mustache Removal System now, Angelique?"
"It's Krusteriffic, Johnny Unitas. But is my upper lip supposed to bleed like this?"
(Ed. note - No discussion of this episode is complete without the following song and moment. Oh God, my feels.)
(Guest contributor Danger Guerrero)
Episode: "Scenes From The Class Struggle In Springfield" (season 7, episode 14)
What Happens: After Marge stumbles across a real Chanel outfit at an outlet mall, she is mistaken for a member of the town's upper crust and the Simpson family is invited to the Springfield Country Club. Homer displays a natural ability for golf, which he shows off at work by chipping balls into the men's room toilets, leading to Mr. Burns challenging him to a match at the club. The evil tycoon jumps out to an early lead, confounding Homer, until the secret to his success is revealed.
Key line: "Quit cogitating, Steinmetz, and use an open-faced club ... a sand wedge!" "Mmm ... open-faced club sandwich."
Poor Smithers. Poor, poor Smithers. So devoted to his boss that he led him to believe that he was a world class golfer for years -- YEARS -- and did it in a way that made it impossible to receive any recognition. And why? For what? Based on everything we, and he, knew about Mr. Burns, it's no stretch to believe that the old man would have been devious enough to sign off on a plan that involved his loyal manservant literally sprinting down the fairway of every hole to retrieve errant tee shots and surreptitiously place them on the green before his playing partner noticed. That's classic Mr. Burns. But Smithers didn't want recognition, not this time at least. He just wanted his boss to win, and beyond that, to feel like a winner. If Mr. Burns knew Smithers was cheating on his behalf he would have still had the spoils of victory, which is all he cares about, but not be filled with the warm, fuzzy feeling that goes along with with it, which is all Smithers cares about.
And what does Smithers get for his trouble? A golf ball in the noggin. The whole thing is a goddamn tragedy.
(Guest contributor Josh Kurp)
Episode: "Homer Loves Flanders" (season 5, episode 16)
What Happens: After a single man buys all 30,000 tickets to the upcoming Pigskin Classic between the Shelbyville Sharks and Springfield Atoms, Homer resorts to trying to win tickets on the radio. Right before making a call to KBBL, your go-to source for all things Bobby McFerrin, Ned Flanders wins the tickets, because Homer’s a loser, as was Homer’s father, as was Homer’s father’s father, and so on. Homer’s sacrelicious dreams are answered, though, when Ned invites him to the game, where Springfield wins and Homer not only gets to wear a nacho hat, but also meets his hero, Stan “The Boy” Taylor, who knows Ned through his Bible group. Professional athletes, always wanting more.
Key line: “What's so special about this game anyway? It's just another chapter in the pointless rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville. They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world's largest pizza, so we burned down their city hall.”
There’s nothing in life better than reading SNPP reviews of now-old Simpsons episodes from when they were new. For instance, here’s how Frank Gulczinski described “Homer Loves Flanders”:
I think that we can end the debate over the worst episode ever after watching Homer Loves Flanders. This one just stunk. It seemed like they weren't even trying. The only funny scenes were the T2 parody and the Vertigo/The Deadly Tower sequence. Flame protection on, but I really doubt that there's anyone who enjoyed this one.
Obviously Frank’s wrong in thinking no one enjoyed this episode, the last story pitched by Conan O’Brien before he departed for a career in obscurity, but he’s right about one thing: where would the world be without this GIF?
(Guest contributor Bobby Big Wheel)
Episode: "You Only Move Twice" (season 8, episode 2)
What Happens: Homer lands a dream job with Globex Corporation, which forces our favorite family to relocate from Springfield to Cypress Creek. Homer enjoys working for the charismatic Hank Scorpio (guest voice Albert Brooks), and proves quite adept at his new job. He even confides in his new boss, who turns out to be a supervillain, that his dream is to own the Dallas Cowboys. However, the rest of the Simpsons struggle to adapt to their new surroundings and Homer is forced to resign and return to Springfield in order to keep his family happy. Nevertheless, Scorpio (who has since taken control of the East Coast) rewards Homer for his hard work by giving him ownership of the Denver Broncos. This being the mid-90s Broncos, Homer is non-plussed.
Key line: "You just don't understand football, Marge."
A word on The Simpsons. Each episode really is its own universe, and we grant its writers leeway in creating slightly different versions of this universe as long as they don't exploit this ability too cynically. That is why the Simpsons' golden age ended with the Armen Tanzarian episode; that destroyed the trust the viewers had given to the writers. Homer could go into space, work as a blackjack dealer or be best friends with Gerald Ford as long as it was handled well.
So it's a testament to the writers' ability that in one of these universes we let them give the Denver Broncos to Homer. It works because it's a throwaway joke; the Broncos weren't central to the episode but were the payoff for a running gag. And this being the 1996 version of the Broncos, the writers had no idea that Homer just took ownership of a team that would win two Super Bowls in the next three years. Younger readers of the site (hey Kurp) may forget that the Broncos were a blue and orange joke for most of the '90s and a couple of decent seasons out of Terrell Davis kept them from being a Browns-esque punchline. Of course, the writers couldn't have predicted this when they had to come up with a consolation prize for the Cowboys (who have won one playoff game since the Broncos won two Super Bowls). But Season 8 was so good that we'll let it slide.
Episode: "Lisa The Greek" (season 3, episode 14)
What Happens: Homer discovers Lisa's gift for picking the winners of NFL games and bonds with her every Sunday during football season Daddy-Daughter Day. When Lisa asks her father to go hiking with her on Super Bowl Sunday, she finds out that Daddy-Daughter Days don't include the offseason and realizes she's being used. Heartbroken, she gives away the Malibu Stacy accessories (including the collagen injection clinic) she earned with dirty gambling money. Homer tries to make amends, but he still wants a Super Bowl prediction, and Lisa provides one: if Washington wins, she still loves him. If Buffalo wins, she doesn't.
Key line: "Let's see ... football ... football ...'Homoeroticism in' ... 'Oddball Canadian rules' ... 'Phyllis George and' ..."
Best episode moral ever: If the Buffalo Bills win the Super Bowl, daughters will no longer love their fathers.
'The Simpsons' manages to build a touching episode about putting your children ahead of your vices around gambling on football games, but the best moment is the "never-tedious" Super Bowl Halftime Show. I don't know if the writers got together and workshopped the most unbearable idea for a halftime show ever, but they nailed it: aliens land in on the 50-yard line and announce that they've come bearing a message of peace, then just sing 'Rock Around The Clock' with barely-changed outer space lyrics. F**king brutal. The only thing keeping it from objectively being the worst idea for a Super Bowl Halftime Show is that the Black Eyed Peas didn't exist in 1992.
Washington won, by the way.
Episode: "A Star Is Burns" (season 6, episode 18)
What Happens: Homer judges the first ever Springfield Film Festival and is torn between three choices -- Barney's Pukahontas, an introspective and personal film about alcoholism; A Burns For All Season, a heavy-handed biopic about C. Montgomery Burns directed by Steven Spielberg's non-union, Mexican equivalent; or Man Getting Hit By Football, a four second clip of Hans Moleman getting drilled in the dick by a football. Barney's movie has heart, but Football In The Groin has a football in the groin.
Key line: "But ... the ball! His groin! It works on so many levels!"
A moment that will live forever in television history:
Also in this episode, the most quoted exchange in the last 20-odd years of Brandon quoting 'The Simpsons'.
Smithers: "Oh, no, sir. They're saying "Boo-urns, Boo-urns."
Burns: [to crowd] "Are you saying 'boo' or 'Boo-urns'?"
Hans Moleman: [to himself] "I was saying 'Boo-urns'."
Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes, we are absolutely doing a Sports On TV for 'The Critic' one of these days.
Episode: "And Maggie Makes Three" (season 6, episode 13)
What Happens: It's less about sports than about giving up sports, but no rundown of classic moments from the golden era of 'The Simpsons' is complete without it. Homer hated his job at the power plant, and when that final paycheck necessary to clear his debts arrived, Homer quit and took his dream job: working at Barney's Bowlarama. He "snuggled" with Marge to celebrate. That got her pregnant. When Homer finds out he's got another kid on the way, he's forced to say goodbye to the one job that would ever make him happy and go crawling back to the power plant, working under a gigantic plaque reading DON'T FORGET, YOU'RE HERE FOREVER. To cope, Homer changes the plaque's message with pictures of his new baby daughter.
Key line: "I was in heaven. If horse racing is the sport of kings, then surely bowling is a ... very good sport as well."
The emotional impact of this moment is lessened a bit by the show's inconsistent depiction of Homer and Maggie's relationship (he forgets she exists most of the time, and at one point locks her in a newspaper machine), but man, the episode and moment in itself is one of the most touching moments I've ever seen in a sitcom. It's absolutely up there with "Mother Simpson" as one of the most emotional Simpsons moments, and stands up next to any of the tearjerkers from 'Futurama'.
It's important to never understate exactly how good 'The Simpsons' was in its prime, especially when we're on a forum somewhere complaining about how pandering the jokes are now, or how Homer's only jokes are that he hurts himself and hates his family, or the repetitive divorce-teases and celebrity guest stars. It was a show that could pound you into emotional submission with irreverence, make you laugh at jokes you barely understood, and make you smarter for having experienced it. This time with 'The Simpsons' is the best we'll spend with a television, no matter where life, time or a refusal to die take us.