I’ve been mulling over the…well, “softing” of the NFL over the last two seasons. There is the ex-football player-jock side of me that screams, “you’re ruining the game, Commissioner Goodell!” Then there’s the reasonable, yet hypochondriac side of me that nervously mumbles, “I hope that I don’t have any lasting head trauma from playing the game” (I sound much like Butters in this example).

 

And yet, because of the new episode of South Park, Sarcastaball, I find myself saying things such as, “Oh yeah, genius idea, moving up the kick offs so no one gets hurt” (Here, I sound like a sarcastic Randy Marsh). It’s taken away one of the better aspects of the game. One which Randy Marsh refers to as, “the most important plays”. I miss the rush of excitement of the opening kickoff. The clean slate of the second half kickoff, where the losing team has to chance to make a statement. Instead, now, we have touchback. Then…touchback. And then after that…a touchback. Even worse, up until the very moment I’m writing this, we have replacement refs. South Park continues with its immediate relevancy, including this referee mess, with its criticism of the rule changes in the NFL.

 

In other words, the timing couldn’t be better. There are several types of South Park episodes. The ones that are contained within its own, small universe, seemingly much like the mountain town itself. Storylines take place within the schoolyard, or through the characters facing everyday life situations using their bizarre viewpoint as a guide. (See: Proper Condom Use, Good Times with Weapons, and Awesome-O). Another are these large, sweeping criticisms of pop culture (or culture in general). Both types of episodes criticize pop culture, it’s just in the latter that it takes precedence in the plot. (See: The Passion of the Jew, Trapped in the Closet, and Cartoon Wars). This episode falls in the latter. And despite the episodes I’ve mentioned, this is generally where South Park fails. They tackle these large concepts and attempt to produce a searing critique within 6 days of production. These are the hit and miss episodes. This episode, and the sarcasm joke that runs tedious at about the halfway point, teeter-totters on the line of hit and miss. I laughed at times throughout, but mostly at the Butters storyline and his Hoarders-esque collection of “happy, sunshine feelings”…which of course…is his…semen.

 

I’m always excited when I find out it’s going to be a Randy-centric or Butters-centric episode. These are, by and large, the most consistent episodes, season to season. Generally, Randy is the All-American middle class father taken to its extremes. He fell under Wal-Mart’s control. He became a celebrity chef (one of my wife’s favorites). And most recently, Randy was a Broadway composer and playwright. The latter being one of the most satisfying South Park episodes of the new era. But in this episode? Well, Randy is full of endless exuberance, but only to be sarcastic until someone calls him on it. Randy is not the enthusiastic father, who finds himself thrown headlong into something idiotic frivolity. He’s not preparing to fight another father in the stands of his son’s baseball game. In this episode, he’s nearly prescient of the NFL’s growing problem. In that, he becomes uncontrollably sarcastic. Maybe this is the problem. He’s too knowing. Too smart. Randy is supposed to be stupid.

 

Reflecting, I noticed that Randy’s charm in those other episodes is that he’s sort of like an adult Butters, coming short on wits, yet full of “creamy goo”. Maybe that’s why we love Randy episodes and Butters episodes so much (I say ‘we’, because the Internet agrees…). In Sarcastaball, they are polar opposites. Sarcasm finds a divide between adults and children, though. Stan and Kyle aren’t hip to the sarcasm, when generally, they’re the voices of reason in the South Park universe. The adults, in a sense. Cartman has a hard time finding his place in this mess as well, actually worrying that he is “so bad at sucking, [he] should work at a Thai massage parlor”. He comes to Butters for help. Which if you’re a fan of the show, you know this is a strange turn of events (especially without some sort of malicious motive).

 

Randy becomes so sarcastic that everyone has a problem picking up on the fact. Principal Victoria and Mr. Mackey, at the cheers of the townsfolk, allow Sarcastaball to become the new school sport. The kids don bras and tinfoil hats and begin hugging one another. Here, it’s a satire of what the NFL, and football overall, might become if we don’t stop the rule-changes. At least, this is what the NFL would look like to a cynic. Randy then becomes the coach of the Denver Broncos, teaching Peyton Manning how to be more sarcastic after winning a game because of a replacement referee debacle. Here, two referees disagree over whether or not it was a touchdown or a safety. The third referee calls it a field goal. They actually pulled off a solid critique of the NFL’s issues, referring to an instance that happened less than 48 hours prior.

 

This episode will never end up on a “Best of…” collection and it certainly doesn’t triumph over some of the other episodes of this season. As a fan, with a deep and abiding love of all things Parker-Stone, I’m always way too excited when the season picks back up and a lot of times I feel let down. In recent years, at least. Usually, when I return to that first episode days, weeks, or months later, I tend to enjoy it more than the first viewing. But right now, this episode, as I said before, is on the line between hit and miss. And other than Butters’ creamy goo storyline, this one is leaning towards miss.

 

After-thoughts:

 

  • I imagine most parents are stupid enough to actually fall in line, supporting Randy to make Sarcastaball a national school sport.
  • Of course Butters would become the team leader in a sport about being compassionate and hugging the other players.
  • “Let’s do this…Stan, hook up my bra.” – Cartman
  • Cee-lo got his ass handed to him in this episode. Finally! “Yeah, I’m a big fan of all your hit song.”
  • A nice reminder that Cartman doesn’t have a dad. In this case, if he had a dad, he might have told him not to drink another guy’s “goo”.