March is an epic sports month. Baseball is back, March Madness is imminent (or in progress, depending on when you're reading this), regular season pro-basketball and hockey games start to have a desperate feel to them. (Also, it's lacrosse season, which probably means something to a select few!) SideReel doesn't cover sports, but we do cover sports-themed television, so we've put together a list of the most sportacular episodes of our favorite shows. Did your choice make the Elite Eight?
How I Met Your Mother S3E14: The Bracket (The Final Four)
Truthfully, this is only tangentially related to sports, but given that it was a nod to the, uh... growing field of bracketology (and not at all a shameless ploy to promote CBS's ownership of the NCAA Basketball tournament), but it is a well-crafted episode that finally acknowledges that Barney is kind of (and by kind of I mean extremely) cruel to women. Turns out that in the aftermath of being Barn-stormed (did he ever use that? If not, he should have), they don't really hold him in high regard. Also, basketball is referenced.
Friday Night Lights S7E42: State
Season one of FNL was basically flawless. From its heartbreaking pilot to its joyful finale, it was a perfect and gorgeously paced paean to the long game. For my money, "State" has the most touching scene in the entire series: the victory parade set to Tony Lucca's cover of Texas legend Daniel Johnston's "Devil Town". As the Greek chorus that is local sports radio says of Coach Eric Taylor at the end, "He healed this team, and he healed this town."
The Simpsons S3E17: Homer at the Bat
There are many strange and wonderful moments in the third season of The Simpsons, but this episode certainly serves as a time capsule of the era we chose to believe the best of our baseball players. The roster of stars in this episode also does double-duty as a list of "Yikes, that guy! Eeesh." True, there are some on there who survived the '90s with their reputations intact, but there were some other spectacular flameouts. Luckily, the best line in the episode is uttered by good guy Ken Griffey, Jr., and I'll tune in every time to hear him say, "There's a party in my mouth, and everyone's invited!" (a line he reportedly had great trouble recording).
Switched at Birth S7E40: Game On
Switched at Birth is a pioneering show that should get more respect among the wider population than it does. Newsflash, America: ABC Family is not just for teens! Aside from the fact that it's given wonderful exposure to the deaf community, its characters have real, multidimensional personalities. Bay Kennish is a talented modern artist, while Daphne Vasquez (the terrific Katie Leclerc) is a gifted basketball player. "Game On" puts her team (from Carlton School for the Deaf) into a regional basketball tournament—and they truly shine. Sure, the underdog victory is a frequently-used trope on TV, but SaB never makes it feel trite, just exciting, honest, and well-deserved.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine S7E4: Take Me Out to the Holosuite
There's no crying in spaceball! I was always charmed by DS9's references to baseball as an obscure and weird obsession of Captain Sisko's. It was one of those things that made the show actually feel like it was from the future, looking at something so omnipresent to us now the way we look at the harpsichord. Imagine trying to learn a sport that went out of fashion hundreds of years ago—and playing it against a species that's stronger, smarter, and (supposedly) unphased by pressure? Vulcans are practically naturally dosed with PEDs! It's a cheerful hour in an overwhelmingly dark final season, and all the more wonderful for that.
The Colbert Report S6E11: Dick Ebersol
Stephen Colbert takes on speedskating and the Winter Olympics in general in this 2010 episode featuring Shani Davis and then-head of NBC Sports, Dick Ebersol. Doing what he does best—skewering those who take themselves too seriously, something the Winter Olympics (and the Summer Olympics!) have long been guilty of—Colbert is untouchable. The guy probably deserves some kind of gold medal—in fact, I'm sure he'd be the first to agree.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia S5E7: The Gang Wrestles for the Troops
Pro-wrestling is a sport! Or, at the very least, it's a "sport"... probably... maybe. Its overt narcissism and "villainy" are the same qualities found in an average episode of It's Always Sunny, which make the two an ideal match. Plus, having donned their eagle (pigeon) costumes, the guys sing about being BIRDS OF WAR before taking on poor Rickety Cricket, shown here having the most demeaning moment of his life up to this point. Oh, Cricks, it doesn't get better. [Sadface.]
The League S2E13: The Sacko Bowl
SideReel kind of loves The League! And by kind of, I mean WE LOVE THE LEAGUE! None of us actually do fantasy sports, but it doesn't stop us from enjoying it vicariously through this show, what with its excellent cast and mean jokes (we, too, are excellent and mean). So it's appreciated that there's a competition for last place (the titular bowl) which leads to a year-long shaming of the "winner." We're not bad people, we just like watching them on TV.