A deep dive into the classic Simpsons episode that perfectly captures that massive boxing match feeling
There’s a big fight this weekend. You might have heard about it.
Two guys called Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. They’re pretty big names.
There is something really special about the night of a truly massive boxing match, and especially to a fair weather fight fan like myself. I’ll watch the big name bouts – if a Joshua or a Pacquiao or a Klitschko are fighting – but sometimes I think I like the idea of boxing more than actually watching two sweaty dudes hug each other for 12 rounds.
What I love is the atmosphere, the storylines and the spectacle, and MayMac has that in droves.
And the buzz I get out of these fight-of-the-century-level events is perfectly encapsulated, like most things in modern life, in a classic-era episode of The Simpsons. 1991’s ‘Homer vs Lisa and the 8th Commandment’ is a classic episode for several reasons – it’s directed by Rich Moore, who would go on to make Zootropolis and Wreck-It-Ralph, and it’s also the debut of one Troy McClure.
It’s the episode where Homer gets the family an illegal cable TV hook-up, and Lisa wrestles with the idea that stealing pay TV will eventually lead to the family suffering karmic retribution.
The moral dilemma comes to a head when Homer hosts the long-awaited match where Drederick Tatum (the show’s pitch-perfect Mike Tyson parody) will fight for the World Heavyweight Championship, live on the Blockbuster Channel - and seemingly half of Springfield is coming to watch it in the Simpsons’ living room, while Lisa holds a silent protest.
Every little detail is perfect, though the episode is not interested in capturing the intricacies of pugilism, but instead all the hype and bombast around it. Right now you’re probably figuring out what pub is showing the McGregor fight, or which of your mates has the biggest TV to watch it on. At the nuclear plant, Lenny excitedly lays out the most mundane plan for the big night – come over to his to listen to round by round updates on the radio, followed by viewing still photos on the 11 O’Clock news (“Not too shabby!”).
Not only is it a great joke, but it’s a reminder of how boxing is made inaccessible to lower-income homes – I can clearly remember as a kid watching a Tyson fight taped off Sky Box Office on a TV screen at my dad's work meant for showing advertising videos to customers, a week after the fact. There was always someone with some dodgy way of seeing it.
The show also nails the hyperbolic coverage of Showtime, HBO and Sky. An overly excited voice from the television dubs it “THE BOUT TO KNOCK THE OTHER GUY OUT”, and exclaims “Watson – Tatum II: this time it’s for money!”. And we get the obligatory scuffle at the weigh-in, with Tatum and Watson clashing after both of them try and dedicate the fight to the latter’s deceased manager.
The bits that really get me though are the moments just before the bout. The Simpsons’ living room is heaving with Springfield residents – I clocked Lenny, Carl, Moe, Grandpa, Jasper, Otto, Apu, the cops Lou & Eddie, and even Sam and Larry, the two background barflies from Moe’s Bar, as well as plenty of non-descript filler characters. There’s a genuine buzz and excitement that comes across for this non-existing sporting event.
That’s what I’m really looking forward to about Saturday night. The anticipation. The possibility. It’s almost definitely going to end with a sixth round stoppage by Mayweather, after an impressive but boring-to-watch defensive display. But that’s not what I’m there for. It’s all about pre-fight montages, the booming Showtime music, the movie stars at ringside, the Pringles and Doritos and beer, the slight delirium that comes with waiting till 5am for the opening bell.
Mr Burns could easily afford to order it on pay per view at home – hell, he could probably even afford a ringside seat – but he chooses to watch it at Homer’s. As he explains to Smithers:
I'm so keen on seeing Watson vs. Tatum Two. I'd even go to an employee's house… A big title fight is one of those rare occasions that I savour the sights, sounds and, ah, yes - the smells of other men.
And while I’m not going go around sniffing my mates or anything, I totally get where he’s coming from.