The great thing about animated sitcoms as compared to their non-animated counterparts is that a cartoon can be so much more surreal and ridiculous. Possibly one of the most unrealistic and unbelievable characters in a sitcom is Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother, but even his playbook filled with brilliant and awesome pickup schemes can’t compare to some of the hilarious things that have happened in animated shows. Examples of the varying insanity that is synonymous with animated sitcoms includes Family Guy’s Peter Griffin driving a forklift while blind drunk and knocking over half the brewery in which he works, and Homer Simpson taking cannonball after cannonball to the belly while hanging out with Sonic Youth and the Smashing Pumpkins at a music festival. Obviously I’m not saying that animated sitcoms are better than non-animated shows, but I am saying it’s a lot easier to get away with obscenity and outlandish plot structures when your on-screen representative is a fat giggling degenerate, rather than a respected actor. The exception here is Charlie Sheen, he can get away with anything, and rightfully so.
The best animated sitcoms eventually end up making sports episodes. Sports are a large part of the lives of people across North America and worldwide. No matter what sport an episode is about, there will be millions of people who can relate to the episode and it will be popular. Along with that, there are plenty of things in the sports world that are funny and can be parodied, adding more reasons for shows to produce episodes that use athletes and sports as a theme. Here is my list of the top 10 sports themed cartoon episodes of all time. It’s a subjective list, but I hope I defend my choices to your satisfaction, if not hit the comments section and let me know.
10. South Park: Crack Baby Athletic Association
There are a few South Park episode on this list but I have to give an honorable mention to several that did not make it, as Matt Stone and Trey Parker have produced quite a few sports themed episodes. They parodied NASCAR in “Poor and Stupid”, WWE wrestling in “W.T.F”, skiing in “A**pen” and the Special Olympics in “Up the down Steroid”, which were all hilarious episodes. “Stanley’s Cup” is not on the list because it is one of few South Park episodes that was actually a tad upsetting. Come on, it’s about a 5 year old cancer patient who dies because his hockey team loses to the Detroit Red Wings. The Mighty Ducks parody was there, and Stan’s connected back story was funny, but the overall plot was just sad.
The episode “Crack Baby Athletic Association” was one of few times I felt guilty while falling off the couch laughing at Eric Cartman’s antics. The overall plot involves Cartman and Kyle paying crack addicted mothers a small amount and offering their babies free hospital care in return for putting videos of the babies wrestling over “a little ball of crack” on YouTube. The episode includes a scene in which Cartman and Kyle eat McDonalds’ fries in a hot tub of KFC gravy. Cartman refers to it as poutine, and any Canadian knows that poutine involves cheese curds, but I’ll let it slide. The episode also has a scene with Cartman dressed up like a southern plantation owner, asking the President of University of Colorado at Boulder how he gets away with not paying his slaves, oops, “student athletes”. The episode is a parody of the NCAA not paying its players despite allowing EA Sports to use their names and likenesses in NCAA football video games. They hit the nail on the head with this episode and won a well-deserved Emmy.
9. Futurama: A Leela of Her Own
When Futurama first came out, I was in my early teens and was unimpressed as I didn’t understand most of the humor, and after most of a decade watching The Simpsons, I found the jokes and subject matter inferior. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I found the genius of the show and realized that it had actually passed The Simpsons. This sports episode features a sport that future generations may encounter called Blernsball, which looks like a hybrid game between cricket, baseball and bungee jumping. One of the main characters, Leela, who is a female Cyclops, for those unfamiliar with the show, has poor depth perception (due to having one eye) and when playing Blernsball, can’t help but hit players in the head with the ball. The plot of the episode follows Leela being selected as the first professional female Blernsball player but becoming a pariah among female athletes, as she was only hired as a novelty act.
8. The Simpsons: Lisa on Ice
Like South Park, there are quite a few Simpsons’ episodes that have earned an honorable mention. Unfortunately there are too many to name. So I’ll leave it at that. The Simpsons have done plenty of sports themed episodes and tons of them have been brilliant. The three that I put on this list, I feel are a cut above.
This is a classic episode with some great quotes. At the start of the episode, Principal Skinner announces a list of students who are failing classes. Ralph Wiggum is failing English class, to which he responds “Me fail English, that’s unpossible!” Bart receives his stack of failing grade slips, and finally it is announced that Lisa is failing gym class. She is later found to be very skilled as a hockey goalie, deflecting slapshots from Apu at will, one of which knocks out Milhouse’s teeth. The episode culminates with a game between Lisa’s team and Bart’s, prior to which Marge has to break up a fight between the two, only to have Homer enter the room and announce “You two are in direct competition, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!” While flicking the light on and off. Again, a great episode and possibly the best ever in terms of demonstrating the complex sibling relationship between Lisa and Bart.
7. Archer: Jeu Monegasque
DAAAAAAAAAAANGER ZOOOOOOONE! The 11th episode of the 2nd season of Archer is a hilarious episode and another example of why this show is so successful. In the episode, Malory and the ISIS agents have the challenge of retrieving one of her sex tapes from Monaco on the weekend of the Monaco Grand Prix. Unfortunately, the $4,000,000 that was meant to pay to get the tape back gets gambled away by Sterling Archer, the main character, who then has to retrieve the money (all the agents’ 401K money) and the tape, which leads to a fist-fight while driving F1 cars around the sharp turns and risky corners in Monaco.
6. South Park: The Losing Edge
The 2nd entry from South Park on this list tells the story of the boys and their baseball team, as they try to avoid winning games so that they don’t have to play baseball through the summer. The running gag being, the South Park kids, along with all the other teams that they play, actually hate baseball but are forced to play by their parents, who want a reason to socialize and drink beer. I personally disagree with the premise of the episode, because I loved baseball growing up, but I recognize that a ton of people out there would rather watch grass grow than hit the diamond for an afternoon. Even funnier than the main plot of the boys trying to lose games so their season can end, is the Rocky-esque subplot of Randy Marsh trying to win fights against other fathers during every one of Stan’s games. Along with that, the late season addition of Kyle Brofloski’s nerdy, complaining and nonathletic cousin, also named Kyle to the roster added quite a few laughs with lines such as “oh, could you please not throw the ball so fast, I have asthma!”
5. King of the Hill: What Makes Bobby Run?
Interesting fact, of the shows that appear on this list, this is the one I wasn’t allowed to watch as a kid. I’ll never understand that one. That’s right, I was allowed to watch South Park, the show which, in its movie Bigger, Longer and Uncut, had a song with the lyrics “Shut your f****** face uncle f*****, you’re a b**** biting bastard uncle f*****”, but King of the Hill was a step over the line. Anyway, I know a few people who would rather drown themselves than watch this show, but I will defend it to the death. While Hank, the main character, is irritating at best, the reason to watch this show is his son Bobby, who just ain’t right, and his three friends, the hapless Bill Dautrive, the fast talking, womanizing Boomhauer and of course Dale Gribble, I mean Rusty Shackleford. In this episode, Bobby earns a spot as his school’s football team mascot. He ultimately does a great job and ends up pulling off an amazing prank and starts a new regional tradition, securing his immortality. Possibly the best part of this episode is that Bobby, who tries so hard to please his father throughout the series, earns his respect (one of very few times) at the end of this one.
4. Family Guy: Patriot Games
This episode was hilarious and in true Family Guy form, the main joke of the episode lasted way too long, and almost became unbearable. Peter Griffin goes to a high school reunion and makes an ass of himself by getting drunk and running to the bathroom to vomit. On his way to the toilet, Peter plows through everyone in his way and Tom Brady follows him to the washroom to comment that he was impressed and offers Peter the position of center on the New England Patriots. Peter is a major success but gets fired from the team for showboating, after a stadium wide touchdown celebration in which thousands of people join him in singing the song “Shipoopi” from the musical The Music Man. He ends up playing football in England after his dismissal and is hired by the London Silly Nannies. The remainder of the show involves him and his new team arranging a grudge match against Brady and the Patriots.
3. The Simpsons: Bart Star
This football themed episode has one of the most memorable Homer Simpson lines of all time. “Good practice, kids. Now it’s time for the easiest part of any coach’s job. The cuts. Although I wasn’t able to cut everyone I wanted to, I have cut a lot of you. Wendell is cut. Rudy is cut. Janey, you’re gone. Steven, I like your hustle, that’s why it was so hard to cut you. Congratulations, the rest of you made the team! Except for you, you and you.” The episode revolves around Homer becoming the coach of Bart’s team after heckling Ned Flanders into quitting the coaching job. Homer favors Bart over the other players, despite Bart being an inferior quarterback to Nelson Muntz. The ending is great, as during an important game, Chief Wiggum arrives to arrest Nelson, but Bart pretends to be Nelson so that the team can win the game. Oh did I mention that this episode has a cameo by Joe Namath? No, he doesn’t get drunk and hit on Marge, but he does deliver a public service announcement about vapor lock after his car breaks down in front of the Simpson’s house.
2. South Park: Sarcastaball
Another episode of South Park that had me falling off the couch laughing. Sarcastaball is the episode that parodies the efforts of the NFL to make the sport safer and eliminate head injuries. In response to a rule by the school board to have student players no longer do kickoff plays, Randy Marsh sarcastically says that instead of wearing pads, the kids should all wear bras. On top of that there should be no ball, but instead it should be a balloon. These ideas catch on, but additionally, players are now required to complement each other and give hugs rather than tackling. His ideas are all meant sarcastically but the school board and eventually the NFL adopt all the rule changes and Randy ends up as the coach of the Denver Broncos. Possibly the best segment of the episode is the parody of the end of the Seahawks/Packers game in which the replacement refs botched the call. To quote the episode: “Ohhhh one replacement ref has called this play a touchdown, and now another has called a safety! They’re going to have to go to the side judge for this play. ‘F*** it, it’s a f****** field goal!’” The subplot of Butters and his “sports drink” that occurs in this episode is disturbing on more than one level, but still adds a few nauseating laughs to an already “fall-off-the-couch-laughing” episode.
1. The Simpsons: Homer at the Bat
This episode was released in the 3rd season, which is arguably the best season in the history of the series. Season 3 has the pink shirt episode, the 1st episode with Krusty’s father, the episode when Lisa is a football betting prodigy and of course the Flaming Moe. It was definitely one of the stronger years of the show. In this baseball themed episode, Mr. Burns hires several MLB players to work in the power plant so that they can play on the softball team, so that he can win a million dollar bet. Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Ozzie Smith and Darryl Strawberry are the pros hired by Burns and each plays himself in the episode. Before the big game, each (except for Strawberry, who plays Homer`s position) becomes unable to play. Clemens thinks he is a chicken, after being hypnotized. Wade Boggs is knocked unconscious by Barney Gumble after a heated argument over who was Great Britain’s greatest Prime Minister. Griffey can’t play because Mr. Burns’ nerve tonic gives him a case of gigantism. Steve Sax is arrested by Eddie and Lou for murders committed in New York. Ozzie Smith ends up in another dimension. Canseco gets side tracked rescuing a woman and her possessions from a house fire and Mike Scioscia gets radiation poisoning from the power plant. Don Mattingly has the funniest line in the episode, after he is cut from the team for having long sideburns by Mr. Burns, saying “I still like him better than Steinbrenner”. Homer ultimately becomes the hero of this classic, getting beaned in the head by a pitch for a based loaded walk, while confused by Burns’ complicated signs from the dugout.
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