It’s been brought to my attention that today marks the 15th anniversary of The Office’s first episode. When this knowledge came to light, I immediately stopped what I was doing and began writing what I hope will serve as a fitting tribute to one of the most beloved sitcoms in recent memory. While The Office’s often uncomfortable brand of cringe comedy isn’t for everyone (Michael Scott’s utter buffoonery can be grating, I’ll admit), the show’s popularity has never waned, gathering strength with repeat viewings on Comedy Central and elsewhere (it’s long been a staple of Netflix’s streaming lineup).
While the character arcs of Jim, Michael and others were more essential to the plot than any of the sports-related detours the show took over its immensely successful nine-season run, the NBC giant never shied away from sports, either. From the iconic warehouse pick-up game to Michael experiencing the pitfalls of carbo-loading during the inaugural “Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Fun Run Pro Am Race for the Cure” (apparently, they weren’t into the whole brevity thing), The Office was quietly full of great sports moments. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
Warehouse hoops (“Basketball,” S1, E5)
Can you believe it’s been almost 15 years since Michael and his fellow Dunder Mifflin-ites shot hoops in the warehouse downstairs? I’ve always said my sophomore-year roommate at Syracuse was the worst to play pick-up basketball with (my buddy Dean was an ALL-TIME hacker). But now that I’ve seen Michael Scott (not to be confused with Sixers forward Mike Scott) in action, I think hooping with Scranton’s Regional Manager would be much more miserable. He has J.R. Smith’s irrational confidence, but with absolutely none of the skill.
Michael may have a flatter jump shot than Ben Simmons, but at least he has better handle than his poor teammate Stanley. The warehouse game was an absolute dumpster fire and I loved every second of it. Hey Dwight, Richard Hamilton called. He wants his mask back.
Michael and Dwight meet in the dojo (“The Fight,” S2, E6)
All things considered, Michael did better than he probably ought to have in his much-anticipated showdown with Dwight, a karate purple belt who didn’t exactly look the part. Dwight may be country strong, hardened by his years of manual labor at Schrute Farms, but I don’t think Dana White will be recruiting him to the UFC anytime soon.
Jim feels Stanley’s wrath in beach sumo wrestling (“Beach Games,” S3, E23)
“Beach Games” is best known for Pam’s revealing monologue (arguably her defining moment of the entire series), but what preceded it was a whirlwind day at Lake Scranton with fierce competitions ranging from hot coal walks to hot-dog eating (Joey Chestnut would have been proud of Andy’s performance in the latter).
Of course, the main event was sumo wrestling, pitting wide-eyed Jim against the wily veteran Stanley. This one was over quicker than Wilder/Fury II as Jim proved no match for his crossword-loving rival. From office curmudgeon to beach sumo champion—now that’s a 30 for 30 I’d watch.
Michael races for the cure ... after eating way too much fettucine (“Fun Run,” S4, E2)
As an 800-runner in high school, I know a thing or two about carbo-loading. Michael had the right idea, but I’ve found it’s much more effective when you eat pasta the night before a big race—not seconds before the gun goes off.
Michael predictably crashed and burned, but at least his efforts were for a good cause with all money raised (or what was left after splurging on an expensive novelty check) going toward Meredith’s hospital bill. Maybe after we find the cure for rabies, we can turn our attention to the running community’s nipple-chafing crisis. I’m sure Andy would appreciate it.
Andy Bernard’s blister-filled golf experience ("Job Fair," S4, E17)
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You practice, practice, practice. Unfortunately, Andy may have taken those words of wisdom a little too literally, destroying his hands by taking endless swings at the practice range before his round even began.
Ever heard of golf gloves, Andy? Apparently, that never came up on the Cornell curriculum. Here’s something that might surprise you—Brian Baumgartner (aka Kevin Malone) has a nine handicap. Pretty good, but I still wouldn’t eat his chili.
Soccer with Phyllis and Charles Miner (“The Dream Team,” S5, E22)
When he’s not making women swoon, Charles Miner is probably on the pitch honing his soccer skills. Jim Halpert? Not so much. Jim loves sports (especially Philly teams), but soccer has never been Big Tuna’s cup of tea. Phyllis learned that the hard way when Charles decked her with a shot Jim easily could have blocked. Speaking of Charles Miner, let’s hope the actor who played him—Idris Elba—can make a safe and speedy recovery from the coronavirus.
Scranton and Corporate face off in volleyball (“Company Picnic,” S5, E28)
This episode had everything, didn’t it? Michael and Holly spilling the beans on Buffalo’s imminent closing, Pam taking names on the volleyball court, cameos from David Wallace and Charles Miner, not to mention the reveal that OH YEAH, PAM’S PREGNANT (should I have said spoiler alert?).
Pam never got her Willis Reed moment and I’m pretty sure Scranton forfeited to Corporate, but it was still a near-perfect half hour of television.
Michael Scarn’s showdown with Goldenface (“Threat Level Midnight,” S7, E17)
However implausible the plot, I’d still see Threat Level Midnight in a heartbeat. How many spy thrillers stage their dramatic climax at the NHL All-Star Game? Just this one.
In a hilarious homage to TLM, Redskins receiver Trey Quinn celebrated his first career touchdown in 2018 (it came in a Thanksgiving loss to Dallas) by busting out Michael Scarn’s signature dance. He’s only scored one touchdown since, but for that celebration alone, Trey will always be a legend in my eyes.
Ryan Howard pitches Jim and Darryl (“Promos,” S9, E18)
You knew it was only a matter of time until Phillies slugger Ryan Howard made a guest appearance on the show well-known for featuring another, less athletically-inclined Ryan Howard (aka “Temp” and “Fire Guy”). It took most of the series, but the stars finally aligned in season nine with the former National League MVP joining the fray to make a bizarre movie pitch to a flustered Jim and Darryl.
Howard’s Office fandom was well-documented long before he appeared on the show, even using the theme music as his walk-up song before at-bats at Citizen’s Bank Park.