Airdate: November 9th, 1997
Synopsis: With most of Springfield’s children rendered unhealthy, participation in Pee-Wee Gridiron Football increases. Ned Flanders starts out as coach, using his kindness and Nelson’s strength as an athlete to keep the team undefeated. However, Homer’s heckling from the stands causes Ned Flanders to quit and give the job to Homer.
Homer quickly takes over, and initially is tough on the team, cutting people left and right. However, he begins favoring Bart, after remembering how tough Abe was on Homer. The team goes down the tubes in Bart’s one game, and Bart tries to get out of playing. Homer refuses to play without Bart, causing Bart to quit the team. A rift ensues between the two.
Reaction: This episode is quite good. Not “shake the world” or anything, just quite good.
Probably the worst thing in the episode is that, while Homer’s behavior in the episode is very much a satire of the typical sport family/coach, and a wonderful one at that, they also give off awkward vibes of what was to come from the character. That, and “Lisa on Ice” did it first. In second place, there was the pointless joke between Marge and the cashier, which is just stupid. Also, Lisa’s preachiness about the pigskin, while still funny, is also a sign of things to come under the Jean era.
However, this episode is still pretty good by classic Simpsons standards (which means that it is utterly brilliant by Modern Simpsons standards). I loved Joe Nameth’s cameo (partially because I follow New York sports), Homer is at least given SOME rhyme or reason for his callous behaviour, the plot isn’t too wacky (and when it was, it was quite funny), and the episode still contains that biting satire of the pre-teen sports world in America. Are we really cruel enough on our kids that we will make snarky comments when they lose? Are we that invested in pee-wee sports? Is it too much?
I don’t have a whole lot more to say about this episode. It’s full of satire and has aged relatively well. Slightly weaker than The Cartridge Family, probably due to slightly more zaniness, but still, a good episode.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 2. His heckling of Flanders and cut-happy persona make him more callous than normal, but his interactions with Bart are realistic enough to save him.
Zaniness Factor: 1.5.
Favorite Moment: Hank Hill watching Springfield trounce Arlen.
“We drove 2000 miles for this?“
Least Favorite Moment: Read “Jerkass Homer Moment” above.
Score: 7.75 (Rounded to 8 for Labels).