When you’ve been making a TV show for more than two decades, especially one that embraces cultural satire the way The Simpsons does, you’re bound to feature key parts of the zeitgeist a few times. And in the case of something so big in the zeitgeist–The Super Bowl–The Simpsons have featured it more than just a few times. Throw in the fact that their host network, Fox, has aired several Super Bowls during these last two decades and you can see that it’d be fertile territory for Matt Groening’s comic army. Here’s a list of references to the Super Bowl on The Simpsons:
Sunday, Cruddy Sunday, Season 10, Episode 12
This is perhaps the most obvious reference. Homer rallies a group of Springfieldians to rent a bus and travel to the Super Bowl. As it turns out, their tickets were printed on crackers, which is hilarious on so many levels. The episode counted Dan Marino, Pat Summerall, John Madden, Troy Aikman, and Rosey Grier as guest stars. It also includes a really funny bit where Carl and Moe hold a glass over their mouths while naming the participants that year, an obvious reference to the fact that it was made months in advance and they had to voiceover the lines the week of the Super Bowl.
Lisa the Greek, Season 3, Episode 14
Lisa the Greek originally aired in the show’s magical early years when the characters were still being fleshed out. Lisa gets through to her otherwise oblivious father by helping him craft winning bets on football games throughout the season. Eventually, she realizes that what she perceives as special father-daughter bonding is only Homer reveling in his gambling victories. It all boils down to the proof of Homer’s love for his daughter resting on the outcome on the game. The show correctly used the actual participants that year (the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins), and even re-dubbed the lines with new participants each subsequent year that it re-aired. My favorite part was the spoof of real-life NFL analyst Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. There’s also a hilarious spoof of the old Bud Bowl ads, with Duff Beer taking the place of Bud.
When Flanders Failed, Season 3, Episode 3
It’s only a brief reference, but it’s a funny one nonetheless. Homer wins a wishbone standoff and must make a wish. It cuts to a dream cloud from Homer’s head and we see the various wishes that he’s considering. One of them is a newspaper headline that reads “President Simpson Wins Super Bowl”. Eeeeeexcellent.
Cape Feare, Season 5, Episode 2
On the run from Sideshow Bob, the Simpsons must take on an assumed name as part of the Witness Protection program. Homer declares “I want to be John Elway!” At that point, we’re taken to Homer’s dream sequence wherein he’s the quarterback of the Denver Broncos who scores at the last minute of the Super Bowl. It’s a funny enough bit as it is, but then we’re treated to the scoreboard, which shows that the last second touchdown made the score 56 to 7, with Homer’s Broncos on the receiving end of a big-time buttkicking. It’s a reference to the continued failures of the Broncos in the Super Bowl (this was made before Elway won two), including the Super Bowl where they lost 55 to 10.
Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass, Season 16, Episode 8
Homer’s over the top and oafish victory dance at a charity carnival is captured on film and discovered by multiple athletes. The group includes Tom Brady, Yao Ming, Warren Sapp, Michelle Kwan, and LeBron James. Eventually, Homer is asked to choreograph the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Unable to come up with anything, he employs the help of Ned Flanders and they create a Biblical-themed halftime show. It’s met with jeers. The episode is best known for giving a real name to Comic Book Guy- Jeff Albertson. The best part, for me, was Homer watching highlights from past Super Bowls and seeing a fictional Super Bowl XVI halftime show in which Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man are married.
Old Yeller Belly, Season 14, Episode 19
The Super Bowl reference this time comes via Duff Man. Upon being fired, Duff Man bemoans that he’ll have no way to take care of his children, Duff Girl and Duff Lad. His boss then reminds him that his children were only fictional, created “as one-time shots in a Super Bowl commercial”.
Elementary School Musical, Season 22, Episode 1
During the episode, Krusty the Clown finds out that he’s won a Nobel Peace Prize. While recapping various events in his life, it’s revealed that Krusty was the perpetrator of an infamous Super Bowl halftime show nip-slip, a reference to the ill-fated Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake nip-slip during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Hard Times, Coca-Cola advertisement during Super Bowl XLIV
The Simpsons loaned their universe and likenesses to Coke for an ad during the Super Bowl in February, 2010. Mr. Burns loses his money, but his woes are put aside momentarily when Apu hands him a Coke.
There may be more, but I feel like this is a pretty thorough list. If anyone else can think of any, please feel free to add them in the comments. Enjoy the Super Bowl this weekend, everyone.