On this day 26 years ago, Homer Simpson made his legendary boxing ring run to “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”
Homer Simpson is a man of many talents. If it wasn’t his exploration of deep space with NASA or producing hit songs like “Baby on Board” with the Grammy-winning Razor Quartet Be Sharps, we know Homer is doing the bare minimum in his role as Sector 7-G safety inspector at Springfield Power Station nuclear. But during the heyday of The Simpsons’ long-running small screen presence – and long before the current decline in quality – Homer once again demonstrated the versatility of the Swiss army knife when he moved into the world of boxing for it. A short-lived combat sports career.
We just need to turn back the hours to see that today (November 10) marks the 26th anniversary of “The Homer They Fall,” which was the third episode of season eight of the critically acclaimed TV show. After Bart Simpson is stripped of his new utility belt by elementary bullies based at Springfield Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph, Homer steps up as the loving father we know (sort of) in an effort to reclaim his son’s belt. However, Homer was in a rude awakening when he shouted at the parents of the bullies, resulting in him being beaten by one at Moe’s Tavern. Homer, to the astonishment of the parents of bullies, was able to withstand the imposed punishment and tried to reason with them about the actions of their sons.
Moe Szyslak, who is presumed to have committed the Homer tab murder, intervenes with his trusty rifle to protect his close friend and loyal customer. And here we are, with Moe opening up about his ill-fated boxing career and planting a suggestion that Homer follow in his footsteps and enter the squared circle. Homer’s nascent boxing career began, after he was taken under the wing of Mo, who offered his services for 60 percent of his earnings. While Homer’s father’s body and inability to actually fight would put him at a very disadvantage, Mo soon realized that his friend’s ability to withstand severe punishment made him an excellent pony from one trick.
Homer made a name for himself in the Springfield Hobo Boxing Association, as his vagrant opponents succumbed to exhaustion after repeatedly being shot in the head. Having exhausted his opponents before a “kill” alert sent them to the canvas, Homer rose through the amateur ranks before he became a professional. Mark Kirkland, director of The Homer They Fall, and writer Jonathan Collier took full advantage of the ’90s boxing scene with brilliant storytelling by introducing us to Lucius Sweet, a witty parody of famous boxing promoter Don King. Sweet, who was Moe’s former boxing manager, arrived with a tempting offer after hearing about Homer’s exploits on the amateur scene. Advance forward the following boxing parody: Heavyweight Champion Drederic Tatum, who drew inspiration from boxing legend Mike Tyson.
Lucius made a mouth-watering show for Moe: Tatum has a great comeback against Homer after his release from prison. While Tatum carved through Homer like a red-hot knife cutting through butter, Lucius sweetened (pun intended) the deal by offering a lucrative payday—not to mention fame—if Homer could last at least three rounds against Tatum. Torn between his loyalty to Homer as a friend and the opportunity to reach the heights of success he had not had in his failed boxing career, Mo Plusius enlisted his offer and set the stage for Homer’s match with Tatum. With that said, Homer’s last fight produced one of the most iconic boxing tracks we’ll ever see.
Southern Dandy arrives at “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”
Despite Marge Simpson’s desperate pleas to Homer not to take the fight, the Simpson patriarch steps forward and arrives at Springfield Coliseum for his climactic showdown with Tatum. Just when ‘The Homer They Fall’ could no longer be a great watch, a memorable appearance from legendary boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer was the icing on the cake. Former WCW and WWE announcer Buffer introduced Tatum to the ring first, with famous Springfield residents such as Rainier Wolfcastle, Kent Brockman and Fat Tony in attendance. A streamlined episode career that Tyson would be proud of, Tatum made his thrilling entrance to Redman’s “Time 4 Som Accion” sound.
Forget about Tatum. It’s all about Homer’s Round Walk, as Buffer makes an extraordinary introduction to the legendary Simpsons. Highlighting his reputation as “Brick Hithouse” and “Southern Dandy,” Grampa Abe Simpson and Moe accompanied Homer on his famous circular walk while making the stunning choice for War’s Why Can’t We Be Friends? It was exploding at Springfield Coliseum. Tyson Fury may be known for giving us extravagant walking tours, but this was really Homer’s finest hour. The clairvoyant Homer, who had an “antagonist” on the back of his boxing suit, received a helping hand from Abe and Moe after struggling to enter the ring.
What has to be said about the fight, eh? Fighting one by one is one thing, but this was a total demolition of Tatum. Clearly out of his league, Homer’s tolerance for enduring punishment reached its peak as Tatum fired frequent headshots while parading for the crowd. Taking a quick “break” to talk ringside Charlie Sheen, the referee warned Tatum not to resume the fight. After Tatum-Sheen’s brilliant play, Homer took advantage of the drill in an attempt to create a startling turmoil. Did you succeed? Well, Homer often missed his goal (undermining the horn?) and was punished again with Tatum’s powerful shot.
With Marge calling to stop the fight by a raucous crowd who wanted to see Tatum knock Homer’s head, Moe filled with regret quickly escaped from the ringside after preparing Homer for an unwinnable fight. However, Mo came to his senses and gave us another special moment in Simpsons history, as he took to the ring with a paramotor and lifted Homer before Tatum could deliver a final blow to Tyson. Did he redeem himself? We believe so. Well, aside from causing more brain damage to Homer after hitting his head on metal scaffolding as he flies them off the Springfield Coliseum. In fact, Moe withdrawing Lucius’s check for $100,000 and not giving Homer a payment was also very shady.
So far, The Homer They Fall is a testament to The Simpsons’ once impeccable ability to tap into the world of sports for great storytelling. Unsurprisingly, Homer’s ring runs towards “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Forever etched in the minds of boxing fans, who have nothing but fond memories of this part of the 1996 classic episode. “Perfect entry song for the fight,” said one fan. Another person posted: “I laughed so hard when I saw this when it first aired. This is the best use of that song ever!” Another commented, “I wish someone in the UFC would come out to ‘Why can’t we be friends?'” As a fourth boxing fan added: ‘I came here for this scene dying of laughter. What a song to play [an] entrance.”
It’s safe to say ‘The Homer They Fall’ has aged like fine wine, and it won’t be forgotten any time soon that Homer’s short term as a boxer, along with his circular walk before his fight with the Tyson-inspired Tatum. By both boxing fans and The Simpsons.
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