Well after yesterday’s lackluster foray into the world of soccer, I only have one question for you. Are you ready for some football!? Yeah, me neither. Honestly I kind of find football even more boring than soccer, which is a hell of an accomplishment, but hey, people like it, so here’s a pretty fun episode about pee wee football.
Things start off with all the cheapskates in Springfield rushing to a free health fair to see just how unhealthy they are. Before actually getting the plot going we hop around the fair, looking at various townsfolk deal with their health. We see Homer get his gravy levels checked, we see Maude trying to give Grandpa, Jasper, and Old Jewish Man a hearing test to disastrous results, and Marge and Lisa running a pathetic first aid/improv booth. But after looking at these gags we see that Bart and all the other boys are in a booth ran by Ranier Wolfcastle, who is trying to establish if they’re “fat” or “fit.” And, not surprisingly, all of the boys, Bart included, are fat.
And since, as has been established over the years, Kent Brockman has nothing better to report on, he does a whole report where he lambasts the fat children of Springfield. But it’s not just abuse, he kind of off-handedly mentions that the little fat kids of Springfield could probably lose some weight playing pee wee football. And that’s all it takes for all of the parents in town to decide their children need to play football, regardless of their opinions. So everyone heads to the local sports goods store and start getting all of their equipment, including an incredibly strange scene where the perviest clerk of all time harasses Marge over getting a cup. Although it does lead to the amazing scene of Milhouse just kicking Bart’s crotch with all the force he can muster to test the cup, before getting yelled at by Marge.
And now that the kids all have the gear, the next step is getting a coach. So logically the person to coach this violent and boring sport is good old Ned Flanders. Ned gets working on try-outs, looking all the horrible players that have been forced out. Nelson is really the only competent player, so he gets to be the star quarterback. There’s also a hilarious scene where Lisa shows up, trying to be the only female player on the team, almost making this an inspiring Lisa episode about sexism in sports, but the wind is let out of her sails when she realizes there’s already four other girls on the team, and she doesn’t actually want to play, she just wanted to shatter gender-barriers. So the team is locked, with basically all the children in the town on the team, and they get playing as the Springfield Wildcats.
But things start to turn poorly when Homer realizes that the true joy of watching his son play football is actually just harassing coach Flanders the whole time, despite the fact that under Ned’s leadership the Wildcats are pretty great. But that doesn’t mean much to Homer. He keeps ragging and heckling Ned, even calling into some sports talk-show to badmouth Ned. And after several games where the Wildcats do great, but Homer spends the whole time psychologically abusing Ned, he finally snaps. Ned runs up into the stands, quits, and makes Homer the coach. What could go wrong?
Well, Bart’s the first person to feel the brunt of Homer’s new zeal for coaching, since he turns the whole house into an obstacle course and starts training Bart constantly, while wearing Marge’s rape-whistle and his Tom Landry hat. Marge points out that Homer may be being a little hard on Homer, and instigates a wonderful flashback where we learn Homer used to be amazing at gymnastics in high school, while Abe was never supportive, and often openly antagonistic. So Homer decides he should do the complete opposite, and begins doing nothing but believing in Bart, which leads to the hilarious scene between the two:
Homer: “I just want to give you a big hug!”
Bart’s Inner Monologue: “It’s gotta be a trick, run like the wind!”
And Homer’s newfound obsession with Bart’s football career starts to ruin things at their next training, when he starts to cut all the kids he doesn’t like. And after getting rid of half of the players, he announces that Nelson is being removed as the quarterback so Bart can take the job. Which doesn’t really endear Bart much to the other kids.
And the worst part is that Bart is a terrible quarterback, and the Wildcats begin losing like crazy. Which makes the kids hate him. And Bart doesn’t even want the job! But Homer won’t listen, so Bart starts training, trying to make the most out of a bad situation. And it just so happens that the fates have aligned, and as Bart’s practicing in his backyard, Joe Namath shows up because his car broke down outside their house. Bart explains his plight, and Joe agrees to give him the only quarterbacking advice he’ll ever need. But right as he’s about to give the advice, his wife fixes the car, since it was only vapor lock, and he heads out, without giving Bart any advice at all. And since he’s out of options, Bart does what he always does when he’s hit rock bottom, and goes to Lisa for advice. And even Lisa is pretty much out of ideas, and just tells Bart that the best plan may to be just lying to Homer.
So the next day at a game, Bart shows up wearing fake casts, claiming that he’s too injured to play, and that Nelson should probably take over. But Homer’s not cool with that idea, and would rather forfeit than play without Bart. Which is just too much for Bart, who admits he’s lying, and then quits the team. And Homer respects that decision, realizing that Bart needs to live his own life, and moves on. Psych! He gets all pissy and the two start squabbling at home while Homer keeps calling him a quitter. And without Bart there to ruin the team, Nelson takes over again, and the Wildcats start winning like crazy again, even destroying the Arlen, Texas team, which leads to a great King of the Hill cameo.
But their relationship is in pretty dire straits. Yet things start to mend when Homer runs into Bart in the Kwik-E-Mart while trying to buy some sort of Skittle beer. Homer apologizes, they hug, and I guess everything is better now. Bart even says that he would come back to the team, as long as Homer doesn’t make him the quarterback, and lets him be just another teammate. So they go to the championship game, the whole team together again, and it comes down to the final play. The teams are tied, and Homer has to come up with a brilliant way to use Nelson to win. But right as the game is about to start again, Chief Wiggum shows up with a warrant for Nelson’s arrest. So Bart takes one for the team, and in a great twist where we’re supposed to assume he’s going to be the quarterback for the final play, he instead says he’s Nelson and gets arrested so Nelson can win. And they do! Huzzah! Unfortunately it turns out Nelson was being arrested for burglary and arson, and Bart may be in a lot of trouble. And the episode ends with the hilarious gag of Joe Namath showing up one last time to tell us about the danger of vapor lock.
This is a pretty fun episode. I don’t care about football at all, but it was still an enjoyable little story about something that I imagine must be ridiculously difficult. I’m not an athletic person (shock!) and neither is my wife, so we really hope our future children won’t be athletic, so we don’t have to go to crap like this. But if they are, we certainly aren’t going to be the coaches, because we won’t know what the hell we’re doing. And man am I glad, because I imagine being the coach is a terrible thing. Because it seems like a lose-lose scenario. You either play favorites with your kids and all the other ones hate them, or you do your best to be objective and have the chance of pissing off your kid. It just seems like a minefield I have no interest in maneuvering. Just seems like a horrible time. But hey, it made a cute little episode. I’m always for Bart and Homer bonding and being buddies.
Take Away: Football is a drag. And beware the monstrous danger of Vapor Lock! I have no idea what vapor lock is.
Bart Star was written by Donick Cary and directed by Dominic Polcino, 1997.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons