The Simpsons is still relevant in pop culture, as no one has forgotten the many classics the show put on in its heyday. While the lustre and comedy just isn't quite what it was in the first 10-12 seasons, those episodes still aren't forgotten. The show explored many themes, and sports was one of them. How can you forget Homer playing softball, Lisa dominating hockey, Homer trying to be Tom Landry in Pee Wee football or Bart battling Todd Flanders in mini putt? It's amazing we can even pull off a top 10 list exclusively from sports episodes. These classic moments included the characters showing their athletic prowess, some great cameos from professional athletes and combined a great mix of comedy and drama. Here are the top 10 sports episodes in the long history of the Simpsons.
11 Honorable Mention: Sunday, Cruddy Sunday (Season 10)
It may seem like a slight for not including this in the top 10, but at Pat Summerall pointed out to John Madden at the end of the episode; "did it strike you as odd that in a Super Bowl episode with Dolly Parton, we didn't see any football or singing?"
So the sports element isn't quite there. Nonetheless, a fantastic episode. Homer meets a travel agent Wally, who is looking to fill a bus heading to Miami for Super Bowl XXXIII featuring the (cover lips) Atlanta Falcons and (cover lips) Denver Broncos.
When they arrive at Pro Player Stadium, the usher informs them their tickets are counterfeit. The hologram's missing, there's no such team as the Spungos and finally, they were printed on some sort of cracker.
After trying to bust into the stadium, the group is thrown in detainment. Dolly Parton, an old friend of Wally's busts the group out. They run aimlessly around the stadium and end up in Rupert Murdoch "the billionare tyrant's" skybox. After they are chased out, they end up in the winning locker room, swiping Super Bowl rings, champagne and the Lombardi trophy itself.
10 Tennis the Menace (Season 12)
Tennis court, eh? Sure Homer's true intention was to have foxy boxing in his backyard, but he doesn't know what tennis actually is until he sees it.
Homer and Marge become the talk of the town, as everyone wants to be at the Simpsons residence enjoying a game of tennis. It's also at the expense of the couple, as Homer is so terrible they lose every game they host. Even Kent Brockman pulls off a win. I guess you can say it's his racket, or as he mistakingly puts it, "I guess you can say I'm Iraqi!"
When Marge becomes aware that she and Homer are a laughing stock, she begins pairing with Bart to enter a doubles tournament. Homer then teams with Lisa out of spite. When the tournament comes, the family turns on each other, as Homer dumps Lisa for Venus Williams... well, dumping is such a harsh word, let's just say he "replaced" her. Marge dumps Bart for Serena. Soon the Williams sisters dump their new partners for pros, with Serena dumping Marge for Pete Sampras and Homer's "tennis stick" is yanked by Andre Agassi.
The family is reunited on the bench, watching the pros go at it, and they reconcile. They agree "it's better to watch things, than to do things."
9 Hungry Hungry Homer (Season 12)
Any sports fan who has seen their beloved team move to another town can relate. (Montreal, born and raised.)
Having a newfound desire to "stand up for the little guy," Homer attempts to get Lenny's season tickets refunded due to the poor record of the Springfield Isotopes. They've been tanking ever since Duff bought them from the Mafia.
Henry Duff refuses to refund the tickets. While Homer storms off, he stumbles onto evidence that the team's planning to move to Albuquerque.
After the evidence disappears, Lisa suggests a show of civil disobedience, so Homer opts for a hunger strike, chaining himself to a pole outside the stadium and not eating until the owners admit their intentions. Instead, Duff exploits Homer and turns him into a team mascot, saying "Hungry Hungry Homer is on a hunger strike 'til the Topes win the pennant!"
When Homer grows thin and weak, he's replaced and offered an Isotopes hot dog in front of the live crowd. He then discovers the hot dog is topped with soutwestern ingredients! Mango-lime salsa? That's the kind of bold flavour they enjoy in, Albuquerque!
The fans then realize the hot dog wrappers say Albuquerque Isotopes. The owner is tossed, Homer is a hero and his hunger strike is over.
Fun fact: a minor-league team called the Albuquerque Isotopes now exists, named after this episode.
8 Dancin' Homer (Season 2)
While on a company outing at a Springfield Isotopes game, Homer dances for the fans, rallying the Isotopes to victory. He is named the team's mascot, dubbed "Dancin' Homer" and the lowly 'Topes go on a winning streak.
Homer is eventually called up to the big club in Capital City, as the beloved Capital City Goofball needs someone to take the pressure off of him. However, the big city crowd is unimpressed with Homer's dancing shtick.
He is led off the field to cheers and let go from the organization.
Favorite quote: "I used to rile the late great Connie Mack with that one at old Shibe Park" Mr. Burns.
7 Lisa the Greek (Season 3)
We enter a different avenue of sports; gambling! Desiring to bond with Homer, Lisa begins watching football on Sundays. When Homer desperately turns to Lisa to pick winners because as the analyst says, when he's right 52% of the time, he's wrong 48% of the time. Lisa picks winner after winner and Homer discovers her gift of picking football.
Homer gets a ton of extra income and his bond with Lisa is strong, but when Homer makes plans to spend the Sunday after the Super Bowl with Barney, skipping "Daddy-Daughter Day," Lisa is hurt. She sees Homer just spent time with her to get her picks.
Homer tries to make amends with Lisa, and get her Super Bowl pick, but instead gets a cryptic message. She says if she still loves Homer, Washington will win, if she doesn't, Buffalo.
The show pokes fun at the NFL's eternal pre-game shows and corny halftime shows while Homer is tense, hoping for a Washington win and his daughter's love. Unlike the actual Super Bowl that year, Washington wins in dramatic fashion, scoring on the last play, thus giving Homer his daughter's love and forgiveness.
A bond of watching and picking football with your daughter? What father wouldn't want that?
6 Dead Putting Society (Season 2)
Growing jealous of Flanders' perfect home and perfect family, Homer aggressively coaches Bart to beat Todd Flanders in a miniature golf tournament. Homer's tactics unsurprisingly fail to help Bart and he turns to Lisa who takes on a spiritual approach and geometrical measures to improve Bart's game.
Homer makes a bet with Flanders, with a contract stating the father of the boy who loses, wait losing is such a harsh word, let's just say, the father of the boy "who doesn't win" has to mow the lawn in their wife's Sunday dress.
Bart and Todd match each other putt for putt and are tied at the final hole. With both feeling too nervous to go on, they decide they are equals and call it a draw. Remember the wording of the contract, "the father of the boy who doesn't win," hence both Homer and Flanders must mow their lawns in a dress. Homer still thinks it'll be worth it to see Flanders humiliated, but Ned actually enjoys it, much to Homer's chagrin.
5 Bart Star (Season 9)
A health convention reveals Springfield's youth is overweight, so a Pee-Wee football program is started. Initially, Flanders is coaching with a super positive attitude, and the team is successful. Homer heckles Flanders in spite of it, throwing a beer can at his head, and Flanders hands the coaching job to Homer.
Homer becomes a terrible coach, too tough for a pee-wee team, cutting players on a whim, as he says, "the easiest part of any coach's job is the cuts," Homer begins showing favouritism towards Bart, making him the starting quarterback, despite Nelson's dominance. The team begins losing and Bart quits, angering Homer.
The two reconcile and Bart rejoins the team for the championship game, back to his old position at tackle. The police then shows up, looking to arrest Nelson in the middle of the game. Bart tells Homer he can 'cover' for Nelson, which means he will go to juvie in Nelson's place.
Nelson wins the championship for his team and Chief Wiggum tells Bart, er Nelson, that he's going away for a long time.
There's only one thing you have to remember; Joe Namath's car broke down.
4 Team Homer (Season 7)
Homer, Apu, Moe and Otto want to start a bowling team but need to pay a $500 league entry fee. Homer catches Mr. Burns in a doped up state, and Burns, thinking Homer is the Pillsbury dough boy, writes him a cheque.
The "Pin Pals" begin rolling through the league and appear to be on their way to winning the league championship, until Mr. Burns discovers what he's done. Mr. Burns decides to join the team rather than nuke it, and the team is forced to cut Otto loose.
The team begins slumping, thanks to Mr. Burns' frail play. Just when the team is prepared to kick Burns off the team, he presents them with new uniforms. The team makes it to the finals where they play the Holy Rollers, featuring the Flanders and the Lovejoys.
Down by one pin, it's up to Mr. Burns to win the championship. As he takes his shot, Otto breaks a claw machine in the background, causing the floor to shake as Burns' ball grazes two pins. The pins fall and the team takes home the trophy. Mr. Burns then has another one of his signature changes of heart and takes the trophy home for himself.
Homer attempts to sneak into Burns' mansion to retrieve the trophy as his team cheers him on. Homer is caught by Mr. Burns' hounds and his team runs off.
3 The Homer They Fall (Season 8)
After Homer effortlessly takes a beating from three guys in Moe's bar, Moe suggests Homer take up boxing. Dr. Hibbert's tests reveal Homer has a cushion like layer around his skull, making him perfect for boxing.
Homer has no technique and no power, so Moe, a former boxer, trains him to withstand punishment and push his Hobo opponent over when he's too tired.
All is well until Moe's old manager, Lucius Sweet, "who's just as rich and successful as Don King," offers Moe's prodigy a shot at Drederick Tatum's heavyweight championship. Sweet wants Homer to last three rounds, as his fans are tired of Tatum matches ending before they have a chance to get drunk.
Marge makes Moe promise to stop the fight if Moe's in trouble, but Moe has no intentions of doing so, as it's his last chance at boxing glory.
Homer's old strategy of withstanding a beating is useless against Tatum who begins destroying him in the ring. Homer hears a cactus (Marge) telling Homer to "hit him back" Homer misses in dramatic slow motion and is in dire trouble.
Moe flies into the ring, using the Fan Man's paramotor and saves Homer from a knockout punch.
2 Lisa on Ice (Season 6)
With Lisa failing gym class, her teacher agrees to pass her if she joins a sports league outside of school, one where, "parents push their kids into vicious competition to compensate for their own failed dreams."
After Milhouse, the goalie for Apu's pee-wee hockey team, the Kwik-E-Mart Gougers is injured and Lisa discovers she has a knack for goaltending. The Gougers also happen to be the rival of Bart's team, the Chief Wiggum-led Mighty Pigs.
Bart and Lisa develop a rivalry, with Homer egging them on, enjoying the battle for his affection.
Bart and Lisa finally play each other and their teams are deadlocked at 3 and Bart is awarded a penalty shot at the end of the game. However, as they line up, they both reminisce about their fond childhood memories together. Bart and Lisa embrace on the ice and the game ends in a tie.
The crowd begins to riot as Lisa and Bart share a beautiful sibling moment on the ice. Homer sobs, crying "they're both losers."
1 Homer at the Bat
Homer becomes the heroic slugger for the Nuclear Power Plant's softball team, using his magic homemade "Wonderbat." However, Mr. Burns makes a $1,000,000 wager with rival Shelbyville's plant owner. Burns then gets Smithers to recruit Major League players as ringers. Burns then discovers his original choices, including Honus Wagner, Cap Anson and Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, have all passed on.
Smithers recruits Jose Canseco, Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Daryl Strawberry, Don Mattingly, Mike Scioscia and Ken Griffey Jr. (What's amazing is the Simpsons managed to get all these players to voice themselves). The team appears set to bring Mr. Burns, now managing the team, the championship, but a series of bizarre and unfortunate events prevents eight of his nine starters from playing.
Canseco is stuck saving a woman's belongings from a fire. Ozzie Smith disappears in a "mystery spot." Steve Sax is arrested for unsolved murders he didn't commit. Roger Clemens is hypnotized into believing he's a chicken. Wade Boggs is knocked unconscious by Barney for arguing Pitt the Elder is a better prime minister than Lord Palmerston. Mike Scioscia is hospitalized with radiation poisoning. Ken Griffey Jr. has overdosed on nerve tonic. Don Mattingly is kicked off the team for sporting sideburns only Mr. Burns is able to see. Mattingly delivers a memorable quote, "I still like him better than Steinbrunner."
Daryl Strawberry, Homer's replacement, is still fine and hits home run after home run. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth in a tied game, Strawberry appears set to take home the championship. Mr. Burns, realizing Strawberry and the pitcher are left-handed, so he opts to play the 'percentages', pinch-hitting for a right-handed batter (Homer), despite Strawberry having hit nine home runs that day.
After Homer is confused by Mr. Burns' signals, he is hit in the head with the first pitch, forcing in the winning run and making Homer the hero. The plant takes home the title and a memorable "Talkin' Softball" by Terry Cashman song plays to end the episode. Cashman has said that song is more requested than his original hit, "Talkin' Baseball".
The episode has it all. Every guest star is funny and given a good role, while the episode still centres around Homer very well. Not only is it the greatest Simpsons sports episode, it's one of the best in the show's history.