The Five Most Overlooked Sport-Themed TV Episodes Of The 21st Century

These sport-filled bonanzas are in need of a bit more love
16:00, 12 Apr 2020

From Homer Simpson’s softball triumph with the Power Plant in ‘Homer at the Bat’, to the one where they all played football at Thanksgiving in Friends (called, erm, ‘The One With The Football’) sport and TV have long gone hand-in-hand, even in the shows that have absolutely nothing to do with sport.

Now, well over 20 years since either of those particular gems aired, there has been a bucket load of other sporting themed episodes that have premiered that we need to show a little bit more love for. Below is our pick for the most overlooked sporting-themed TV episodes of the 21st century so far...

Community (2009-2015) - Physical Education, Series 1, Ep 17

Before he took over the world with Rick and Morty, creator Dan Harmon was the brains behind the criminally underrated Community, a sitcom that took a community college study group and placed them in increasingly surreal situations across campus.

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A paintball battle that beautifully homages a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, games of ‘the floor is lava’ that expand the entire school and one episode that was done entirely in the style of an 8-bit video game - no, Community doesn’t do things normally.

Easily one of the most overlooked TV shows of the last decade, Community excelled at turning the mundane into the quite frankly bizarre. Case in point, the series one episode ‘Physical Education’ in which protagonist Jeff Winger does battle with a billiards teacher over the necessity of gym shorts.

Like we say, it sounds mundane but it is drenched in genius.

Best Moment: Jeff Winger’s mighty showdown with the aforementioned billiard teacher that goes much further than either could have imagined

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005-) - Hundred Dollar Baby, Season 2, Ep 5

As the longest running live-action sitcom in American history, Always Sunny is bound to include a few episodes that could make this list, from the gang’s Philadelphia Eagles’ tryouts in ‘The Gang Gets Invincible’ to season five’s ‘World Series Defence’ episode, but it’s season two’s ‘Hundred Dollar Baby’ that takes the mantle as its best.

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The episode revolves around two of its main characters, Charlie and Dee, becoming hooked on anabolic steroids and being led into the underground fighting scene. Crude, crass and unashamedly offensive, this is Always Sunny at its very best.

Best Moment: The final moments paying homage to Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. Extremely dark but hilarious in a way only Always Sunny can pull off.

The Office US (2005-2013) - Basketball, Series 1, Ep 5

Ah, April, 2005. We remember it well, don’t we? Well you should. It is, of course, the date of one of the most famous games of hoops in the history of the orange, rubber ball - office staff vs the warehouse.

The American version of the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant created sitcom had some teething problems in its debut season and early on it struggled to differentiate itself from its hugely popular British counterpart. Its fifth episode, ‘Basketball’, changed that by bringing in an entirely unique episode plot and one that hadn’t been tread on by the original.

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From Michael Scott’s naive assumption that all African American’s are good at basketball to Dwight Shcrute’s goggles - This really felt like the series’ watershed moment.

Best Moment: Stanley’s time to shine and Michael’s immediate regret

Futurama (1999-2013) - A Leela Of Her Own, Series 4, Ep 10

As the intergalactic cousin of The Simpsons, it comes as no surprise that like Springfield’s finest, Futurama also has a sporting gem or two up its sleeve - in particular, this season four classic that deals with the 31st century’s prime sport - Blernsball. 

The plot revolves around Leela, a cyclops for the uninitiated, and her attempts to become “not the worst Blernsball player ever” thanks to her lack of perception. 

The star of the episode is the game of Blernsball itself. Think of a combination between cricket and baseball, throw some bungee jumping in for the hell of it, and you’ve got a good idea of what the sport’s all about. Let’s not wait a thousand years to make this sport a reality!

Best Moment: Protagonist Fry’s brain-scratching introduction to the sport. “Multiball. MULTIBALL!”

The League (2009-2015) - Thanksgiving, Season 3, Ep 8

OK, we’re cheating here slightly. The entire premise of The League is that of a group of friends who take part in an American Football fantasy league, so every episode is technically sports-themed. It would be a crying shame, however, to skip over one of the most underrated TV shows of the last decade.

In particular, it's ‘Thanksgiving’ episode is a real treat and stands out as one of the show’s very best. Similar to It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia in terms of twisted humour, ‘Thanksgiving’ is gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable - in the best way possible. With a dinner table scene laden with dreadful sexual innuendos, a cooked class pet and a delightful appearance from Jeff Goldblum - ‘Thanksgiving’ perfectly encapsulates why you should watch The League immediately!

Best Moment: The dinner table scene involving sorbet, Sarah Silverman and Jeff Goldblum is stand-out. Just don’t watch it with your mum.