This is my list of what I feel are the 10 best sports—themed television shows from the past 20 years. I have excluded shows such as SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, MLB Quick Pitch, etc.
It's more a list of the best family and non-family friendly shows and mini-series in which sports play an integral part of the storyline.
If you feel that this list is missing something or that the rankings are way off, sound off.
I know what you're thinking: How the hell is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles included in this list?
Undisputably, the show was a classic, and the show, movies, video games and toys played a part in my growing up. You have four turtles who came in contact with ooze, were taught Ninjitsu by their Sensei rat, and fought Shredder and the Foot Clan.
And yes, martial arts are sports. Ask any UFC fan.
Al Bundy is the baffoon in the classic, raunchy 90's comedy MwC. Like numerous people you hear at baseball and football games, Al cannot let down his high school accomplishments at the fake Polk High in Chicago. He brought up scoring 4 TDs in a game almost every episode.
After high school, Al married his sweetheart, Peg, who, after popping out two kids, decided to watch her ass grow while Al sold shoes. Besides being a hotbed for fat, older women jokes, Al's daughter, Kelly (Christina Applegate) was smokin' hot.
Can anyone remember what NO MAAM stands for?
I wasn't the biggest follower of Coach when it was on the air, but I do remember it continuously being one of the more well-watched shows on TV.
Craig Nelson was Hayden Fox, who coached the fictitious Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles. Of course, I think it was Dauber, the dim-witted assistant coach played by Bill Fagerbakke, that made the show so entertaining. The other assistant coach, Luther Van Dam, played by Jerry Van Dyke, was also pretty entertaining.
Sports Night is one of those shows that never really got a chance. There are 45 episodes over two seasons that are available on DVD.
The show was a loose interpretation of SportsCenter on ESPN. However, it was much more about the relationships of the anchors behind the scenes.
The lead writer was Aaron Sorkin (imdb.com), who is known more for The West Wing. The banter between the cast is excellent, and it keeps the show moving.
Need I say more? Some may wonder how sports has anything to do with The Simpsons.
In numerous episodes, one of the Simpson characters is involved with sports in one way or the other. Homer becomes the dancing mascot of the Springfiels Isotopes in one classic episode. In another, Homer's bowling team brings in Mr. Burns to play.
Perhaps my favorite sports episode is when Homer leads the power plant's softball team into the league final. In a great depiction of reality, there is a beer keg at the pitcher's mound. Mr. Burns, in his Steinbrenner-ian desire to win the league, gets rid of all the employee players and brings in the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Jr., Don Mattingly, Ozzie Smith, Steve Sax, and Mike Scioscia.
These are just a few of the numerous guest spots by athletes through the years.
The Bronx is Burning was a mini-series on ESPN depicting the NY Yankees run to a World Series title in 1977. Also during that time period, the "Son of Sam" killer was roaming the streets of New York.
Oliver Platt did a very good job of depicting Steinbrenner and how difficult he made Billy Martin's job. John Turturro does a great Billy Martin, showing the personal demons that Billy had to deal with, alongside with Reggie Jackson.
Playmakers is easily the most controversial show on my list. It created such an uproar from the NFL that the league threatened to pull ESPN's Sunday Night Football contract if they continued to air the show.
The drama depicted the lives of professional football players. The action on the field was good, but it was the issues off the field that doomed the show. The series tackled drug abuse, steroids, domestic abuse and homosexuality.
Although my biggest knock on the series was that I doubted all those issues were present on just one team. I know they are league-wide, but I doubt one team is dealing with all of them. However, "Neon" Deion Sanders has said that it was a relatively accurate depiction.
On Cheers, the bar's owner—then bartender, then owner again—Sam Malone, played baseball for the Red Sox. "Mayday" Malone, a reliever, did not have a very successful career. However, his bar was the place to be.
Besides Sam, major characters were Coach Ernie Pantusso (Sam's coach in the minor leagues), Woddy, Diane, Carla, Rebecca, Cliff, Norm, and Frasier.
Sam buys the bar after drinking ruined his baseball career. He makes numerous references to pitching while drunk/hungover. To me, this is the greatest sitcom ever.
If you don't like cursing—and I mean non-stop profane language—then Eastbound and Down is not for you.
HBO's comedy is based on Kenny Powers, a former professional pitcher who won a World Series. However, he loses his skills and must return to his hometown to become the PE teacher.
Danny McBride is hilarious as Kenny, trying to get his talent back while winning his ex, April back from her fiancee. I did not give this show the No.1 ranking because it has only been on for one season (six episodes), so I have high hopes when it returns.
HBO has confirmed it is signed for a second season.
AC Slater as a wrestler is an alright reason, but c'mon. Is there any reason other than Tiffany Amber Thiessen ("Kelly Kapowski") to watch this show? By the way, if you don't know why TAT is incredibly smokin', Google her name.
One of the most critically acclaimed shows on television, Friday Night Lights is loosely based on the movie and book of the same name. The show follows the Dillon Panthers through their football seasons and school years.
The first season used much more high school football in the plot, while the second and third seasons put the football more in the background and instead focused on the relationships of the characters.
The show has struggled with viewship, as NBC continuously juggles the time slot it is in.
Also, the girls are fantastic.
There were other shows that I felt could have been on the list, but I either felt that sports were not that important or the show was terrible:
Roseanne—Dan bowled, but couldn't make up for Roseanne being alive.
John from Cincinnati—a weird, hard-to-follow show from HBO that involved surfing and John repeating every friggin' word someone else says. HBO went out on a limb with this one, and the limb snapped. I gave it a try, but just couldn't do it.
Everybody Loves Raymond—Ray plays a sports reporter, but I didn't feel it was in the show enough. I always think of Frank giving Marie lip and of Robert giving Ray crap. Funny show, though.
Hang Time—classic, kid-friendly show from the 1990s with Anthony Anderson as the star. That alone makes it garbage. Even Dick Butkus as a coach couldn't save this show from Anderson for me. I remember watching two or three episodes and have been affected ever since.