This past Saturday morning, after tossing and turning for the better part of two hours, I decided to roll out of bed with the roosters. What I realized was, short of counting the moths as they fluttered in front of my porch light, there’s not a whole lot to do when you’re up at the crack of dawn.
So, I thought back to when I was a kid and waking up that early was a birth rite instead of an annoying setback. How did I keep myself busy back then? After coming to the conclusion I’m a bit past my prime to whip out the G.I. Joe battle station and figurines, I decided to do the next best thing.
I poured myself a bowl of Count Chocula, headed for the couch and flipped on the tube in search of some classic Saturday morning cartoons.
But, I’m sorry to say, I was gravely disappointed. Gone were the zany and satisfyingly predictable scenes of Acme safes and anvils flattening unsuspecting animated characters. Gone were the tough Brooklyn accents and the silly cat and mouse tactics set to the oddly fitting crescendos of Mozart and Bach.
In their places were sad, sappy space creatures and wimpy pseudo toddlers designed to gently caress self esteem levels and teach kids how to play with blocks as if they already didn’t know.
In a rage, I flicked off the TV and ventured online in an effort to satiate my growing appetite for less responsible cartoon entertainment. I was looking for some of my favorites, and I soon realized this composed a short list of animated episodes which related mainly to sports.
What I eventually uncovered was my list of the greatest animated athletic performances in history. So, grab yourself a box of cereal and a gallon of milk, pull up a chair, and show America that we’re through with fuzzy, purple dinosaurs mucking up the cartoon game. And don’t forget to drop a line in the comment section with some of your personal favorites, because I could do this all day.
- Goofy laces up the skates in “Hockey Homicide” (1945)
When it comes to cartoons, Disney spends most of its time on the wimpy side of the spectrum. But in this rarely remembered episode starring Goofy, we see a whole new side to the bumbling bag of fleas. The NHL should take some notes as Goofy smears a few defenders up against the glass and makes a second home in the penalty box. Honestly, I never would have pegged Goofy as a goon. I didn’t know he had it in him.
- Bobby Hill rallies his troops in “Powder Puff Girls” (2008)
It’s not often Hank Hill gets the chance to be proud of his son Bobby’s athletic prowess. But when he’s picked to captain the football team in the annual Powder Puff Cheerleading spoof, it’s Bobby’s turn to shine. Pay special attention as the young Hill gives birth to a bouncing baby ball and then promptly punts it through the uprights. Nothing spells class in the state of Texas like a good old fashioned baby punting.
- Woody Woodpecker lays the groundwork for Bugs in “Screwball” (1943)
Sure, that zany, red-headed bird and his slightly maniacal laugh can grate on your nerves at times, but you have to give him a little credit in this clip. Notice how his single-handed heroics on the baseball diamond are eerily reminiscent of a classic Bugs episode that just so happens to grace the top spot on this list. As a bit of a cartoon connoisseur, I have to pay homage the short which laid the groundwork for many of the hilarious baseball related cartoons of the future.
- Tom and Jerry serve court in “Tennis Chumps” (1952)
When two cartoon cats square off against each other on the tennis court, it’s clear there will be only one winner. And that winner, of course, is Jerry the mouse. He may only be a few inches tall, but it’s hard not to make an impact on a tennis match when you’ve substituted the game ball with a massive bomb attached to a short fuse.
- Fred Flintstone vs. Blowhard Sandstone in high stakes bowling (1962)
Chalk one up for the proletariat, as Fred Flintstone stuns Bedrock with his effortless upset of snooty bowling champ, Blowhard Sandstone. Of course, Fred couldn’t have done it without a little comical help from his partner in crime, a Mr. Barney Rubble.
- Charlie Brown, staff ace (1966)
I know Charlie Brown isn’t exactly overflowing in the talent department, but when a pitcher gets knocked completely out of his clothes by an opposing batter you have to wonder if it’s time for him to hang ‘em up. Such is the case in this classic Peanuts clip.
- A team of ringers goes wrong in “Homer at the Bat” (1991)
When Mr. Burns places a hefty wager on the outcome of his company softball team’s championship game, he decides to safeguard his investment. The result is a star-studded team of ringers boasting the likes of Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Ozzie Smith, and Darryl Strawberry. In the end, “Home Run” Homer plays the hero when he takes a fastball off his abnormally large melon to walk in the winning run. Athletic performance aside, who can forget the classic song that pulled the whole episode together? Oh, and one more thing: Mattingly, I thought I told you to shave those sideburns!!
- Charlie Brown, place kicker (1952)
Ever have one of those days that’s best summed up as a cross between being stretched on the rack and taking a kick square in the nuts? One remedy that never gets old is repeatedly watching Old Chuck fall for the same pull-the-rug-out, fool-the- placekicker routine that’s had him lying flat on his back since the early 50’s.
- Bugs Bunny clashes with The Crusher in “Bunny Hugged” (1951)
Our first sign of real vintage Bugs Bunny comes in at number two on the list. It features all the bells and whistles of a Looney Tune wrestling match as the comically tiny rabbit goes toe to toe against a real foam-at-the-mouth maniac known as The Crusher. Bugs doesn’t throw a whole lot of regulation moves at Crusher, but it’s hard to ignore his brutal version of a clothesline using the closed door of a very large Acme safe to seal the deal against another in a long list of moronic opponents.
- Bugs Bunny takes on the Gashouse Gorillas in “Baseball Bugs” (1946)
“In left field, Bugs Bunny. In right field, Bugs Bunny. In centerfield, Bugs Bunny. Pitching, Bugs Bunny….”
What could be more satisfying than watching the animated king of slapstick single-handedly mop the field with the overgrown baboons of the Gas House Gorillas? Pay special attention to that wascally wabbit’s slow ball as it sputters past the plate and manages to whiff the entire side on a single toss.
The Tune Squad Mounts a Late Comeback in Space Jam (1996)
Even pitted against 20 foot mutant Martians with attitudes, you just can’t sleep on Jordan down the stretch. But even MJ has to tip his cap to the sweet sky dunk by Elmer Fudd that helped fuel a Tune comeback in this clip.