Thanksgiving Special! Friends “The One With the Football”

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I promised on Monday to write about a show I am actually familiar with, so here we are. If you were a regular reader of the website back when I posted three essays a week you might not have guessed I was familiar with Friends because I’m pretty sure that this is the only time I’ve ever written about the show. That’s because I hate Friends. I hate it because of Ross, I hate it because my friends in college used to announce which characters they were, I hate it because it’s a show that ostensibly takes place in New York but possesses none of the actual identifying characteristics of the city, I hate it because you eventually realize that Chandler isn’t the funny guy, he’s actually kind of a dick, I hate it because of Ross, I hate it because of Ross, I hate it because of Ross. But I acknowledge that it’s the biggest show of the 1990s, and that its Thanksgiving episodes are some of the most popular episodes of the series. Did I consciously pick the episode that has the least to do with the usual trappings of Thanksgiving? (Season three, episode nine, on HBO Max if you want to watch it) No, but it certainly worked out that way. On to Friends.

The highlight of the episode is in its very first shot, when we see Rodney Hampton of the Giants on television breaking through the line for a gain. When I still watched football Hampton was my favorite type of player: a beefy boy running back. A bowling ball of a man. The 90s was the Decade of The Beefy Boy running back, with Hampton, Natrone Means, and the king bowling ball Jerome Bettis. Watching football makes the guys decide they should go play some football while the Thanksgiving meal cooks, and that’s where we spend our next 20 minutes, with the gang playing three-on-three touch football on a playground field that I’m going to generously estimate was 25 feet long. It’s revealed that Ross and Monica were banned by their parents from playing touch football because Monica broke Ross’s nose during the Geller Bowl with her “big fat grandma arm elbow” and we’re reminded that if there’s one thing that Friends loves more than a gay panic joke it’s a Monica used to be fat joke, although we do get a gay panic joke shortly thereafter when Ross suggests to Chandler they do shotgun instead of an I’m lined up with my hands between your legs snap.

Phoebe’s never played before but she’s pretty good, Rachel’s never played before and she’s awful, Ross and Monica are at each other’s throats, and Joey and Chandler are competing for the affections of a random Dutch woman who was walking her dog. Chandler and Janet have broken up and Chandler’s depressed, and just once he wants to be chosen over Joey by a woman, which would have happened here but they’re both suck dicks about it she ultimately wants nothing to do with either of them. Earlier when lamenting over Janet, Chandler says “I wanted to start drinking in the morning. Don’t say I don’t have goals” which ends up being very on the nose given what we now know about the last 20 years of Matthew Perry’s life.

There’s a woman hanging out the first floor window on the other side of the fence watching their entire game, except for the point when Phoebe attempts to distract Chandler by flashing her breasts at him. The woman later reappears on the phone, and is there for the final play. This woman is my favorite thing about the episode other than Rodney Hampton.

Speaking of that final play, the women’s team is down by two on the final possession, which is impossible because they’ve been awarding 7 points for a touchdown. They never mention safeties, so how did they manage to achieve that score? The other things about the final play. Monica finally throws to Rachel who catches it and gets very excited and spikes the ball. She thinks they won until Ross points out she didn’t get past the lamppost/goal line, and it’s a live ball. Monica and Ross both dive on the ball and play tug of war, and they’re still outside doing that at the end of the episode while everybody else is inside eating the Thanksgiving meal. The thing is, where the ball settled was still not past the lamppost, so there’s no point to them struggling over it. Even if it’s Monica’s ball it’s still not a touchdown.

The episode ends, no lessons are learned, and the Gellers are still the worst. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back soon with another failed pilot recap.

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