The DC Comics Football Connection

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Each year in late summer, just ahead of a new college football season’s kickoff, I adopt a football-themed Twitter avatar. My choice for 2018 calls back to one of my favorite TV series of my own college years, Smallville — which, uh, feels awkward to rewatch in light of real-world events.

Regardless, a story arc in which Clark Kent initially avoids joining the Smallville football team came to mind for me this summer, watching The Incredibles with my son in preparation for a theater trip to see the sequel. The first movie’s conclusion, with Dash Incredible in a race exerting only a fraction of his energy to avoid revealing his power, reminded me of the similar device from Smallville.

That angle became prominent in the Smallville universe, going so far as to have Clark Kent on a recruiting visit to Metropolis University in Season Four. His official visit has a PG version of the He Got Game scene I had to watch uncomfortably next to my parents in the movie theater.

The next season introduces Victor Stone in an unrelated plot line. For the uninitiated, Victor Stone is the birth name of Teen Titans and Justice League member, Cyborg.

Depending on the adaptation, Stone was either a standout high school football player — Metropolis High in the Smallville universe — or reached college before the accident of his origin story. In the DCEU universe, Victor Stone played college ball at Gotham City University.

You may notice that Gotham City U’s color scheme bares a striking resemblance to that of the professional Gotham Rogues from the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises. The film itself fell short of the lofty expectations Batman Begins and The Dark Knight set, but the scene in which Hines Ward returns a kickoff, with the turf sinking into the earth behind him as he runs, is iconic.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy functioned as something of a spiritual successor for the property that was my entry into DC Comics characters, Batman: The Animated Series. As such, I’ll admit that the football game scene being depicted in cinema using Bane instead of Scarecrow felt like a missed opportunity.

The Batman: TAS episode “Fear of Victory” introduces Scarecrow, who’s fear toxin renders the star of the Gotham University (no “City” in the name in this universe) team incapable of performing. I remember watching this episode as a kid and it not necessarily scaring me … but definitely rattling me.

I was also admittedly mystified by the facemask-less helmets — clear indication Batman: TAS was set in the 1940s, right?

Scarecrow using his manipulation on the game to collect illegal gambling winnings is an even more sinister scam than sending website readers to an overseas book using affiliate links. It’s also not the only instance in DC Comics lore involving college football point shaving.

One of the lesser known DC heroes, time-traveling Booster Gold, takes the moniker from his college football days. However, the sometimes-arrogant superhero did not end his football career in heroic fashion: Michael Jon Carter shaved points to earn money for his ailing mother’s medical treatments.

If Dan Jurgens didn’t intend Booster Gold’s origin story as a commentary on college athletes being compensated, he succeeded delivering that message all the same.

Booster Gold shares characteristics with one of the lesser Green Lanterns, former Michigan Wolverine football player, Guy Gardner.

The DC Comics universe includes almost enough football origins to field a team, which in turn begs the question: Does Superman want ‘Bama?