Monday, January 11, 2010

Blog blast past: Top 5; How I Met Your Mother's greatest sports episodes

The 100th episode of How I Met Your Mother airs tonight. It promises to have singing and dancing — despite Marshall's chronic case of dancer's hip! — the WWE's Stacy Keibler playing a bartender at MacLaren's. From May 18, 2009, here is the series' top five sports-related episodes (as the title likely implies).


The gang has a tradition of getting together for Super Bowl Sunday. Ted and Marshall like it for the football, Robin and Lily enjoy the commercials and gambling addict Barney needs to keep track of his multiple wagers. However, their ritual is threatened after the owner of the bar where they hang out, MacLaren's, dies and his wake is at the same time as the game.

No one seems to have ever met the owner and Future Ted can't seem to remember his name in the retelling. Was it Mark or Mike? Carl, the bartender at MacLaren's whom Ted once believed was a vampire (because he always wear black and they only see him at night), guilts them into attending by saying they'll never be allowed back in the bar if they don't attend.

It turns out that memorial services are the one time when Barney does not "suit up." He tells everyone he plans on "going out of this world the same way I came in, buck naked; open bar for the fellas, open casket for the ladies." Unfortunately, they have to go a full 24 hours before they can get together to watch a Tivoed game, meaning they have to keep from learning the score while living in New York City, the media capital of the world.

This presents problems since (a) Robin is the media, as a news anchor at little-watched Metro News One; (b) Marshall is speaking to Lily's kindergarten class, and one of the scamps demands a bribe to keep silent about who won the game; (c) Ted has to go to a sports bar to pick up hot wings for the belated Super Bowl party and (d) Barney is a gambling addict.

Barney races around the city trying unsuccessfully to learn the score, even after bumping into Emmitt Smith. "The game was yesterday?" the NFL's all-time rushing leader says. "After you win two or three of them, you kind of stop paying attention."

Ted sets out to get the hot wings after using an old pair of sunglasses, headphones, a cereal box, duct tape and a hole punch to MacGyver up a device called the Sensory Deprivator 5000 that will prevent him from hearing or seeing the score of the game. Unfortunately, everyone's best-laid plans fail, and they all end up learning the score, but that doesn't stop them from having a good time.

LUCKY PENNY (Season 2)

Since HIMYM is a love story told in reverse, it's apropos to include an episode that is told entirely in flashbacks. Ted and Robin (at this point, they were dating) try to figure out who's at fault after he misses a flight to Chicago to interview for his dream job. They were late getting to the airport because Ted had to go to court to pay a ticket he got for hopping a turnstile at a subway station.

It turns out Ted jumped the turnstile because he was coming to the aid of Barney, who was stuck on the train after losing use of his arms and legs. It turns out that Barney, to win a bet with Marshall, ran the New York City Marathon without training, which comes back to haunt him only after he finishes the 26-mile, 385-yard race.

It turns out Barney ran the marathon after borrowing a bib from Marshall, who was injured and unable to compete. It turns out Marshall was given to rubbing petroleum jelly on his nipples to prevent chafing before going out on training runs. (Runners actually do this.) It turns out that Robin crashed at the apartment one night. In the morning, she opened the bathroom door, only to find Marshall, getting ready for his run, rubbing petroleum jelly on his nipples and repeating to himself in the mirror, "You are ... Marshall! You are ... Marshall!" to himself. Robin takes this to be a warmup ritual for another form of exercise and says, "Oh my god!" Startled, Marshall falls and breaks his toe.

It turns out Lily told Marshall about preventing chafing, so it's her fault.


Not a sports episode, but it addresses how HIMYM's Canada references are either uber-knowing or totally stereotypical.

Referring to a dirty Canadian sex act called an "Old King Clancy" is an example of the former. Robin Scherbatsky's TV demo reel including footage of her covering a bass fishing derby in the middle of a blizzard on a "snowy August first in Medicine Hat" is an example of the latter.

Marshall and Lily are moving out of the apartment they had shared with Ted and start discussing who should be responsible for what portion of their damage deposit. They point to the hole in the wall near the door, flashing back to the time when Robin got loaded on Molson and started acting really Canadian, re-enacting Game 6 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final while wearing a Roberto Luongo sweater and goofing around with a stick and a puck. The obvious setup is that she put the hole in the wall with a shot. Marshall challenges her to shoot the puck through the open door, but when she does, Lily catches it. The two exchange words, with Robin chi, "I'll give you summer teeth, some are here and some are there." Ted separates them, causing Barney to yell, "Ted! You never break up a girlfight!" — and punch a hole in the wall.

(Bonus points to the writers for putting Cobie Smulders, who's from Vancouver, in the Canucks' old black sweaters instead of their current blue ones, since it was a flashback.)

In another episode, Robin dates the sports anchor at Metro News One, an ex-hockey player named Kurt "The Ironman" Irons, who takes her to a Canucks-Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. She comes back the next day all agog after her brush with Canadian celebrity.
Robin: "I met Mason Raymond ..."
Everyone: (stare blankly)
Robin: "... of the Vancouver Canucks!"
Barney: "What's the opposite of name-dropping?"
THE BRACKET (Season 3)

Throughout Season 3, Barney was plagued by a mystery woman who kept sabotaging his attempts to pick up women. This leads him to create The Bracket in the style of the NCAA basketball championship — "the top 64 women I've slept with, divided into four regions ... in order to figure out systematically which one has the most cause to hate my guts."


Late fall is often a lonely time for Robin, the Canadian expat. (In the first season, stuck in New York over U.S. Thanksgiving, she and Ted try to fill the void by volunteering at a homeless shelter, but end up eating turkey dinner at a strip club with Barney.)

Marshall takes pity on Robin and invites her to a bar that is strictly for people from Minnesota, warning her that she'll be kicked out if they learn she's Canadian. Robin blends in extremely well, telling people she's from Bemidji and stealing Marshall's story about where he was when on Jan. 17, 1999, when Gary Anderson missed the field goal that would have sent the Vikings to the Super Bowl. (Whenever anyone in the bar is reminded of that day, they all say, "Damn!")

However, when she breaks Marshall's record on the fishing video game in the bar, that's the final straw.
Marshall: "She's Canadian! She's Canadian! She's not from Bemidji and she doesn't know anything about the Vikings."
Robin: "I do too."
Marshall: "Robin. In the 1999 NFC championship, which the Vikings lost ..."
Bar patrons: "Damn!"
Robin (a beat too late): "Damn!"
Marshall: "... who was the kicker who missed the field goal?
Robin: "... Rashad Tarkenton?"
Marshall: "Gary Anderson. Who is now retired and owns a fly-fishing business ... in Canada."
Robin sheepishly leaves, but not without defending Canada's honour (and ironically, this aired the day after the Bills in Toronto disaster).
"I'm proud to be Canadian. We may not have a fancy NFL team, or Prince, but we invented Trivial Pursuit — you're welcome, Earth. Plus, in Canada, you can go to an all-nude strip club and order alcohol. That's right. From Moose Jaw to the Bay of Fundy, you can suck down a 20-ounce Pilsner while watching some coal miner's daughter strip down to her pelt. Jealous?! In Canada, people don't care where you're from. As long as you're friendly and loan them a smoke or hand them a donut. I'm proud to be Canadian. I wish I was there right now."
Marshall then puts things right by taking Robin to a bar for Canadians called The Hoser Hut, where the patrons not only sport toques and hockey sweaters and act overly apologetic.
Marshall: "Wait, I bumped into him, and he apologized to me and gave me a donut?"
The episode ends with Marshall singing karaoke to Robin's early-'90s Canadian bubble-gum pop song, Let's Go To The Mall.

What most people don't know, and really no one born after 1976 should know, was this was not the first sitcom to satirize the Vikings' inability to win the Super Bowl. Apparently, a few days before the Super Bowl was played in 1975, there was Mary Tyler Moore episode where Lou Grant lost Ted Baxter's money after betting on the Pittsburgh Steelers to beat the Vikings.

Of course, the Steelers won that game and have gone on to become six-time Super Bowl champions. The Vikings remain stuck on zero.

And that, kids, is the story of why the Vikings are cursed. (Not really.)

(Here is the intro for the original piece.

Kids, back in 2009 there was a sitcom called
How I Met Your Mother. Watching it was kind of a rear-guard action. The age where people watched a situation comedy on a broadcast network at a certain time every week had long become obsolete, but you still blocked out time for the season finale. It had relatable characters and the L.A. Times, a newspaper published in the now-underwater city of Los Angeles, called it the "most modern and consistently fresh traditional sitcom of the last few years." It also liked to weave in sports references, be it Ted Mosby saying the only thing he talked to his dad about was baseball, or your uncle Marshall playing "BaskIceBall," where he and the other males in his family of mayonnaise-guzzling Minnesota giants put on skates and pads and basically just whaled on each other. Sometimes, whole episodes even revolved around sports and as your Uncle Barney liked to say, it could be "legen, wait for it, dary!")


Chris said...

Very well done. HIMYM is the best show on television.

Though this wouldn't be complete without my favorite HIMYM sports reference:

Ted: You're like the kid in Little League that knows he can't get a hit so he just leans in and gets hit by the pitch.

Robin: That was you in Little League, wasn't it?

Ted: My on-base percentage was off the charts!

Anonymous said...

There is a flaw!

You cannot go to an all nude strip joint in Moose Jaw and suck down a 20oz Pil in the process. Saskatchewan prohibits the consumption of alcohol under the same roof as a strip club.

sager said...

Remarkably, this has come up before, from Dec. 17, 2008: "Don't get hung up on the facts that it's tough to find a coal miner anywhere these days or that you actually can't drink alcohol at a strip club in Saskatchewan (as confirmed by a Sasky expat)."

Michael Grabner Fan said...

Needs a reference now to Barney and Robin hearing about Francois Beauchemin's exploits against Edmonton in the Tim's in T.O.

diary of a sports fan said...

all this post is missing is a basketiceball reference.

sager said...

It's BaskIceBall, and I'm the best.

(Also, check the fifth-to-last line.)

diary of a sports fan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
diary of a sports fan said...

baskiceball? shouldnt it be iceketball? but yeah my bad, it was like 3am over here when i wrote that comment.