Saturday Night Live returns this week for the premier of its 43rd season, and two topics the legendary sketch comedy show have never shied away from lampooning are politics and sports. Given the week we’ve just had, with those two parts of our society intersecting in an almost unprecedented way, you can just about bank on the show taking on Trump’s statements about the NFL and the national anthem.
In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the greatest sports sketches, from SNL and elsewhere, in television history:
10. Chris Farley On Ice – Saturday Night Live
Two of the qualities that made Farley one of the most hilarious cast members in the history of SNL was they way he’d go all-in on even the silliest of gags, and the way he’d get celebrity guests — from Paul McCartney to, here, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan — to do the same.
This is also a pitch perfect sendup of an Olympic broadcast with great work from Phil Hartman, David Spade and Tim Meadows. “Uh oh, pump up the jam.”
9. Upper Class Twit of the Year – Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Monty Python’s brand of absurdist comedy inspired troupes that followed for decades and one of the very best examples of the legendary group taking an outlandish idea and seeing all the way through to hilarious results is the Upper Class Twit of the Year contest, which spawned from the idea idiots who frequented a bar near John Cleese’s home must have been competing to see who could be the most annoying.
8. The Legend of Young Larry Bird – Kroll Show
This reimagining of Bird’s youth in Indiana somehow also mixes in his rivalry with Magic Johnson and chronic back problems that plagued him late in his career. It’s nonsensical on one hand, but makes perfect sense on another for a 30-something such as Kroll who mixed memories of an older Bird with key traits of the man in his prime.
Watch the clip and then try to get through your next pickup game without telling somebody shootin’ is for showoffs.
7. Bill Swerski’s Super Fans – Saturday Night Live
Take your pick of which installment of Super Fans is your favorite. This is the sketch that introduced the idea of mini-Ditkas into the popular lexicon. The absolute loyalty inspired by local sports teams reaches such absurd levels, it’s almost easy pickings when it comes to parody.
But few have ever hit the right tone the way the Super Fans sketches did, having a good laugh with the fine people of Chicago, not at them.
6. Space: The Infinite Frontier – Saturday Night Live
Will Ferrell’s Harry Caray impression is so outstanding shows have been calling on him to do it for years after the Cub broadcaster’s death. The simple idea of “what if Harry Caray hosted a show about outer space” is just so wacky it almost had to work. But it’s Jeff Goldblum’s scientist guest and his bewildered, but sweet responses to Caray’s lunacy that really make this sketch.
5. An American Coach in London – NBC Sports
NBC came up with this to promote soccer coverage on the network and Jason Sudeikis absolutely nails the concept of an American football coach heading to England to try his hand at the game most of the rest of the world calls football. But sketch also hits on some of the sad truths about the coaching profession and how quickly lives are uprooted when wins aren’t produced.
4. The Racial Draft – Chappelle’s Show
Chappelle’s Show has been off the air for more than a decade, but this sketch that deals with how we all view race and identity has never been more relevant. Mix in the fact we rarely ever consider just how crazy the concept of professional sports drafts (not to mention scouting combines and the “job interview” process) actually is, and this Chappelle bit is not only hilarious, it’s deceptively poignant.
3. Peyton Manning and the United Way – Saturday Night Live
Playing against type is one of the most reliable ways for a Saturday Night Live guest host to get laughs, and few ever did it better than Peyton Manning, he of the golden boy reputation, acting like a jerk while “mentoring” kids for the United Way. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the sketch: How real it looked when Manning fired the ball at those kids.
2. East-West Bowl – Key & Peele
When Rhunette Ferguson named her baby boy D’Brickashaw she probably had no way of knowing she was destined to raise a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, black belt in karate and the inspiration for one of the most hilarious series of sketches ever conceived.
It’s genius in its simplicity, football players often have some interesting names. Each installment of the East-West Bowl was hilarious with Key & Peele eventually getting real NFL players, D’Brickashaw Ferguson included, to take part.
1. Pawnsylvania — Kroll Show
This may be a surprise to some, but Kroll Show is easily the most underrated sketch show of all time. Nick Kroll created an amazing, interconnected universe with sketches playing off each other and layers, upon layers of jokes and callbacks that rivals the genius of Arrested Development (no coincidence John Levenstein was a producer on both shows).
Pawnsylvania isn’t one that might come to mind as a sports sketch at first — the premise is a reality show spoof with cousins from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh operating rival pawn shops — but the sketch, with installments spread out over the show’s three seasons, is the spiritual offspring of Bill Swerski’s Super Fans.
Nothing gets to the heart of the similarities, differences and inherent rivalry between cities like their sports fandom. And let’s be honest, those accents are truly fascinating.