Updated on June 14, 2022
I’ve written cartoon-related list posts about other sports, plus the Super Bowl, but not football in general. Nowadays, football’s the most popular sport in the United States. So, to round out the “Big 4” American sports, here’s a list of football references in cartoons.
Besides the Super Bowl episodes, “The Simpsons” has had a few football-related plots:
- “Homer Loves Flanders” from the fifth season features a football game (dubbed the “Pigskin Classic”) between the Springfield Atoms and the Shelbyville Sharks. The two teams, like the two cities, have an intense rivalry.
- Homer coaches Bart’s pee-wee football team in the ninth season episode “Bart Star.” The title’s a pun on the name of former Green Bay Packers player Bart Starr. The episode features a cameo by the stars of the then-new Fox series “King of the Hill.”
- The third season episode “When Flanders Failed” shows Homer watching the Canadian Football League (CFL) draft on TV.
The classic Goofy cartoons featured a series on how to play various sports, including the 1944 entry “How to Play Football.”
“Peanuts” is famous for its long-running gag of Lucy tricking Charlie Brown into kicking a football, but always pulling it away from him at the last minute.
One of Lois Lane and Clark Kent’s coworkers is Steve Lombard. Introduced in “Superman” #264 (June 1973), Steve was a former star quarterback for the Metropolis Meteors football team, hired by WGBS as its new sports anchor. Lois and Clark dislike Steve for his boorish, egotistical personality. Steve would also often try to play pranks on Clark. However, Clark would secretly use his super-powers to make said pranks backfire.
Modern comics reintroduced Steve as a “Daily Planet” sports columnist, though with his large ego still intact.
See my previous post about this football-related 1970 Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Rocky and Bullwinkle
The storyline “Wossamotta U” sees Bullwinkle recruited by Wossamotta University to play for their abysmal football team. Thanks to Bullwinkle’s “mighty moose muscle,” the team goes on an unbroken winning streak. This draws the attention of Boris and Natasha, as well as their Pottsylvania superior Fearless Leader. The villains create their own team of thugs to go against Wossamotta’s, figuring they’ll win—and can bet on the outcome of the game.
Noteworthy for the pun names of the schools Wossamotta plays against. One was “Barely Normal,” as in “normal school,” which was once a more popular type of college. Another was the “Watchmakers Technical Institute”… better known as “Tick-Tock Tech.”
Peter and Roger are shown to be big football fans. Earlier strips showed Roger trying to play catch with Peter, usually with Roger facing injury in the process. Said injuries led to a title of one of the older book compilations: “Eight Yards, Down and Out.”
Peter also tries to play catch with Jason. However, Jason usually either isn’t very good or nitpicks aspects of the game. One strip had Jason insisting on using meters instead of yards.
A series of strips had Peter hire Jason as a coach to practice during the dog days of summer. Peter thought practicing in sweltering summer heat would improve his chances of becoming a great football player. The two siblings eventually switch to playing a football video game as Peter’s “training.”
Peter also often tries out for his school’s football team, but usually gets benched or only serves as the coach’s assistant.
Explaining the rules of the game
YouTube carries several cartoons that explain the rules of football. For example, the National Football League itself produced this animated video explaining the basic rules of the game:
A somewhat snarkier explanation of the rules of football is also found in this YouTube video: