This week on Sports On TV, we tackle the horror/comedy/drama/everything else of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer,’ the 1997-2003 hit that catapulted Avengers director Joss Whedon into public consciousness, gave Sarah Michelle Gellar seven more years of television success and adapted a semi-forgotten Kristy Swanson movie into a layered, sometimes absurd and always worth-talking-about cult classic.
And yeah, believe it or not, Buffy had more than 20 great sports moments. I was originally going to supplement the list with a few ‘Angel’ moments (personalized hockey jerseys for babies!), but I revisited the show, re-watched several of my favorite episodes and found so many things to talk about I could barely fit it into a part 1.
If you’re a fan of vampires, good television or magical axes that give teens the power to kick through somebody’s chest, you’ll love this week’s column. Please click through to enjoy my picks for ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s’ 20 greatest sports moments.
Episode: “Buffy vs. Dracula” (season 5, episode 1)
What Happens: There is an episode of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ where Buffy fights Count goddamn Dracula, and it’s pretty great. There’s a lot to be said about the episode, good and bad. Good: our first hints about Buffy’s inner darkness. Bad: when Buffy defeats Dracula, she doesn’t have to start over on the upside down version of his castle. Anyway, as good as it is, “Buffy vs. Dracula” starts off season 5 with the most season 4 moment ever — Buffy and Riley playing comedy football on the beach. Riley’s wearing a shirt here, because they learned from the Nerf debacle.
Key line: “Touchdown! Yes! Go team Me!”
The gag is that Buffy “throws like a girl,” so when Riley gives her the business about it (because he is insufferable), she blasts him in the chest with a pass and knocks him on his ass.
Because that’s the entire sports moment, here’s a quick list of 7 reasons to hate Riley:
1. His face
2. His weird plastic doll body
3. Marc Blucas is a terrible actor, to the point that the only work he gets is as the love interest on USA Network shows
4. Season 4 of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’
5. His name being “Riley Finn,” which makes him sound like he should be played by either Mary-Kate or Ashley Olsen
6. The fact that his character arc ends with him becoming HUSBAND AND WIFE SECRET AGENTZ with some lady
7. The fact that ‘Buffy’ had an awesome episode in season 1 about invisible kids being herded away to secret government assassin camp, then did a season 3 years later where the bad guy is THE GOVERNMENT and never brought back the invisible kids
And that doesn’t even touch on specific Riley episodes, like the one where he and Buffy have orgasms for an hour and it’s supposed to be something we’re happy to watch.
Episode: “The Zeppo” (season 3, episode 13)
What Happens: In the episode’s cold open, the Scoobies (plus Faith) battle some blue witchy girl-demon things. After dispatching them, Xander crawls out from underneath the pile of rubble into which he was thrown. The rest of the gang points out that, as usual, he was well-intentioned buy mostly useless. The next day at Sunnydale high Xander, in some attempt to get his groove back, harasses a random jock to include him in his game of catch. He manages to screw this up as well, and the ball lands in the lap of school heavy Jack O’Toole.
O’Toole is also, we find out later in the episode, a sentient zombie. But he’s eating lunch when the ball hits him, so I guess he’s a lunchmeat zombie? Anyway, then Cordelia shows up to mock Xander about how worthless he is, leading him on a quest to find his “thing” that makes him important. It goes as well as expected.
Key line: “I happen to be an integral part of that group. I happen to have a *lot* to offer.”
I hadn’t watched this episode in years, and it was interesting to revisit it as an adult rather than a teenager. Man, Nicholas Brendan sure was adorable. But MAN, he sure wasn’t much of an actor. Even more jarring: why the hell would Cordelia, of all people, even know who Zeppo Marx is? Does she strike you as a big Marx Brothers fan? I write about pop culture on the Internet. Know how I learned who Zeppo Marx is? THIS EPISODE. It would be like Dalia Royce from ‘Suburgatory’ suddenly making a Fatty Arbuckle reference. And even that is somehow less strange than the fact that Cordelia is for some reason dressed like The Good Wife in this scene.
(Guest contributor Bill Hanstock)
Episode: “Welcome To The Hellmouth” (season 1, episode 1)
What Happens: Pretty much everything, dude. It’s the first episode.
Key line: “Coming through, coming through … not certain how to stop …”
There are certain staples of any series pilot. Doubly so when it’s the pilot of an hour-long drama. You’ve got to introduce all of your main characters, their traits and motivations, and sometimes you lay out the plot. (Not always. Looking your way, new version of Dallas.) Sometimes characters will behave in a certain way in the pilot and after the show gets picked up the showrunners will be like, “Yeah, that doesn’t work/I don’t care” and it will never be mentioned again.
Xander’s shitty skateboarding was one such (merciful) casualty of the first episode. It’s the late 1990s, so Kaz Kuzui or whoever signed the checks was contractually obligated to follow the network note GUY SHOULD RIDE A SKATEBOARD scribbles in the margins of the pilot script. (“Skateboard” was misspelled.) So Nicholas Brendon had to fake like he rode skateboards all the live-long day. Then his best bro not-Xander got killed in the famous first time Joss tried to kill someone in the opening credits and the skateboarding thing was never mentioned again. For the good of us all. If only the showrunners could have written out Xander’s hissing anti-lisp. But what can you do?
Episode: “Chosen” (season 7, episode 22)
What Happens: There can only be one Slayer per generation. What this episode presupposes is… maybe that’s not true? I mean hell, we saw three Slayers in the same generation in the first three years of the show. But yeah, Buffy and The Gang have to defeat THE FIRST EVIL~, a loosely-defined and totally-not-rushed shapeshifter thing, and their secret weapon is the Mastadon Axe the Black Ranger used on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. If you do MAGIC to it, it can activate all of the potential Slayers in the world at once, creating an army of Buffies to quip and yell at their friends and stab bad guys in the heart. It can also, I’m assuming, command a powerful Zord.
Anyway, every potential Slayer in the world becomes one, including Millie from ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ a woman being domestically abused, and a girl who is afraid to swing a baseball bat until HISTORY CHANGING MAGIC helps her be confident enough to … I don’t know, use super powers to win a baseball game? They don’t really explain it or show where it goes. Are there any baseball scores in the season 8 comics?
Key line: “From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”
And that’s how season 7 of ‘Buffy’ ends … with every girl in the world becoming powerful enough to hang out in graveyards and stab dudes to death. In real life, we call this “women I know in southern Virginia.”
Being the Slayer doesn’t really help you in sports. It didn’t make Buffy a more coordinated cheerleader, or help her do anything beyond basic ice skating, or stop “throwing like a girl.” Maybe that’s why the scene ends where it does. Maybe she hits a home run, but maybe she swings too hard a la Buffy on the miniature golf course and strikes out. Then she goes home, says “nuts to this” and practices that thing she can do now where she backflips, and then the camera cuts away and she’s standing on top of a moving semi truck.
That sounds way better than being able to get a base hit, doesn’t it?