HomeReviewTeam-Up Review: Freaks and Geeks, “We’ve Got Spirit”

Team-Up Review: Freaks and Geeks, “We’ve Got Spirit”

Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episode 9: “We’ve Got Spirit”
Original airdate: Jan. 24, 2000

Anuja: This week’s Freaks and Geeks episode was all about SPORTS! Basketball, in particular.

I’m a big basketball fan (and a fan of Seth Rogen’s Ken), so this show was right up my alley. (Though we could’ve done with even more Ken. Never enough, Ken.)

In this episode, the freaks suddenly became McKinley High basketball boosters after a bunch of jerks from a rival school, Lincoln, egg Daniel’s car.

Sam decides to try out to be the McKinley High mascot (a terrifying, big-headed Norseman) to impress Cindy after the original mascot (a pre-pubescent Shia LaBeouf!) ends up on the injured reserves list.

Lindsay tries to figure out how to break up with Nick without hurting him (or herself).

I want to talk first about the freaks and their newfound school spirit.

At the beginning of the episode, Daniel makes a snide comment about the hype surrounding the McKinley/Lincoln game.

He claims that the jocks think they own the place, and you get the sense that his disgust is more about feeling left out than not appreciating the sport.

It completely resonated with me. I’m a sports fan, but I didn’t hang out with the sports people in high school.

I never went to the games at my school because I didn’t want the athletes or the “real” friends of the athletes to see me there and wonder who I thought I was going to the game (ah, the narcissism of youth).

This insecurity extended to college, where I attended NOT ONE basketball game the entire time I lived mere blocks from Indianapolis’s historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

(Since graduating, I’ve become a massive fan of the Butler Bulldogs basketball team and even traveled to Indy to watch them play in the NCAA championship game against the stupid Duke Blue Devils. This is probably partly because I no longer have to worry about the power forward in my speech class, wondering why I feel so compelled to watch him play basketball all the time.)

A girl talking with a boy in We’ve Got Spirit
Rob and his team at the show are trying to come up with fresh ideas for skits, but they struggle to find inspiration.

This is still more about me, but kind of TV-related: Instead of watching our high school boys play basketball, my friends and I used to go to the all-boys school a few miles away to watch my cousin’s team play.

(See, it was legitimate that I was there because my cousin was on the team. I was there to watch him and not the other guys. At least that’s how I could write it off in my head.)

This is TV-related because Danny Pudi was a classmate of my cousin’s, and I think he may even have been the mascot at the time (probably funnier than Neal).

At the very least, he was at a lot of the games, which I would’ve appreciated more at the time if I had been able to see into the future.

All of this relates to Freaks and Geeks because when Ken, Daniel, and Kim finally went to the game, their more mainstream classmates saw the freaks showing their true school spirit, so they were accepted into the group.

For the 48 minutes of game time, at least everyone in the school had something in common. Sports. The great equalizer.

I know you’re not a basketball fan, but what did you think of the freaks’ storyline?

A group of boys
Rob and his team created a sketch centered around Laura’s cheerleading days.

Ruhi: So the whole high school team spirit thing is an alien concept in my experience at school (and I’m guessing most people who went to school in the UK would agree with me).

We played sports, but I don’t remember there being many big games with other local schools, and we didn’t have cheerleaders or mascots.

This might be why I find US set high school movies and shows fascinating, as there are so many different rituals (even though the fundamentals are the same in many ways).

So, sadly, I can’t relate to your experience with not going to games, though I’m sure there were other things that I didn’t feel like I could go to as I wasn’t part of the right social group (I can’t think of any good examples right now).

I definitely can’t top your excellent Danny Pudi connection. I guess it’s the only equivalent I can think of. It’s pretty tenuous. It was when German exchange students visited (in Year 9, age 13-14; I’m unsure of the equivalent grade). There was a HUGE soccer game between England and Germany as it was the semi-final of the European Championship.

England lost on penalties (which is pretty much standard), and it was devastating and super awkward with a group of people we barely knew who were on the opposite side.

I’m pretty sure it ruined any friendships that might have happened.

I’d say almost all my big shared sporting moments have been soccer-related (also, it pains me to call it soccer; it’s the American English word that feels the most wrong to me) with the time I watched England vs Portugal also in the European Championship at Glastonbury festival in 2004 with 80,000 other people.

England lost on penalties again (there’s a pattern), but no one cared that much because we were at Glastonbury. For that 120 minutes (there was extra time), it was like the whole place was united, even those who don’t generally like soccer.

Boys in group
Rob and his team are struggling to find inspiration.

This was a long way for me to say that I liked the freak’s storyline and how they became fans of their school basketball team (also, the central Lincoln student who confronts them is Matt Czuchry from The Good Wife, which was unexpected and extraordinary).

I also liked the dynamic between Kim, Daniel, and Ken (yay, Ken), and I would love to spend more time with these characters hanging out and hearing Daniel’s dating pearls of wisdom.

It was a relief that they didn’t go hard on Lindsay for wanting to break things off with Nick, and it shows that Lindsay is their friend and not just a random hanger-on.

So, while we’re on the subject of Lindsay, what did you think of her break up with Nick and how she went about it?

Anuja: Yeah, but you must wear fabulous scarves and ride around on broomsticks before entering the Tri-Wizard Tournament, right? (This is what movies have taught me about English schools.)

You go ahead and call it football. This is a safe space.

Also, you probably should write a YA romance novel about a British girl falling for a German foreign exchange student while their teams are embroiled in a bitter football rivalry.

It could be a West Side Story retelling. Maybe West END Story? The book writes writes itself.

Lindsay and Nick are talking with each other
We’ve Got Spirit is known for its clever writing and comedic timing.

I wish it didn’t, but much of American culture revolves around sports.

I grew up an artsy, uncoordinated child in an athletic family.

Despite having zero athletic ability and even less enthusiasm for running, I was pushed into playing sports (mostly basketball, softball, and soccer, though I was on the golf team in high school — don’t ask).

In my grade school, there was a separation between the kids who played sports and those who didn’t, now that I think about it.

I don’t want to say that the kids who didn’t play sports would’ve been shoved into the “Freak” or “Geek” groups, but I think they would’ve been.

Moving from sports to LOVE, I enjoyed how the freaks obviously want Lindsay to stay in their group.

Daniel was terrified that her breaking up with Nick would lead to her breaking up with them (or Nick going crazy and forcing Lindsay to want nothing to do with them again).

And while Ken couldn’t care less about what Lindsay was doing, Kim was excited that Lindsay trusted her enough to ask for advice.

I loved how proud Kim was that Lindsay wanted to talk to HER, not Daniel or Ken. Just Kim. Kim and Lindsay forever.

And that breakup sure was painful.

I think we’ve all been there, wanting to break up with somebody but not wanting to be the bad guy.

I usually ended up being the bad guy because I’d resort to no longer taking calls or talking to said person at school.

It was a very mature way of handling things. At the rate Lindsay was going with Nick, I think it was a blessing that her mom spilled the beans to Nick about how Lindsay wanted to dump him.

She probably would’ve ended up marrying the guy or going to prom.

Have you ever had your mom break up with somebody for you?

Ruhi: If there were scarves involved, school sports might take off over here.

And I’m all over that YA idea; everyone loves the 1990s, so it’s perfect!

Events like Battle of the Bands had inter-school mingling, and there wasn’t much rivalry there either. Or maybe there was, but it went on backstage (though I doubt it).

I also have a similar confession when it comes to breaking up with someone, and I did the ignoring thing.

The guy I was dating was in the year above, so it wasn’t that difficult a task, but I still felt awful.

He probably won’t be reading, but it is a 15-year late apology if you are here.

Lindsay’s hesitation felt familiar, but luckily, my mum never broke up with a boy for me.

Like Lindsay, I was guarded when talking to my parents about boys. I wasn’t a sharer with my parents, and it confused me when friends of mine said they told their parents everything.

Lindsay’s mom, Jean, is so excited that Lindsay has confided in her, and it’s funny that her mom is so happy even though it’s not something good for Lindsay.

As she tells Harold, it makes her feel like a mother, and she gets to do this again later as Lindsay cries on her shoulder at the game.

It’s so awkward when Jean talks to Nick, and the look on Nick’s face when it dawns on him that Lindsay wants to break up with him is heartbreaking.

It’s always been clear that Nick is way more into Lindsay, which we have discussed in the past.

They should break up before Nick falls head over heels.

Nick has been this intense in the past, and stories of his previous breakup influence Lindsay’s failure to break up with Nick throughout the episode.

Nick makes it sound less stalker-y than Heidi suggests, and I think the real version falls somewhere in the middle.

Nick probably was too intense, especially if poems were involved (I got a poem once, and while it was sweet, it also felt overwhelming), but it was also unfair of Heidi to show those poems to everyone.

Nick also turns up at Lindsay’s in the middle of the night because he wants to see her face, and his friends are also aware that he might flip out if Lindsay breaks up with him.

Nick doesn’t flip out; instead, he takes the lead and breaks up with her, citing his friends and drums as the reason, but he’s cut up about this.

I went out with a guy when I was 17 who was a lot like Nick; he played the drums and was a pothead, and the opening scene rang true. Hmm, this episode is bringing out all my teenage dating confessions.

A girl talking with a geek
The show focuses on endearing interactions between the characters

Moving on to the geeks and Sam’s continued misguided quest for Cindy as she continues to be the worst. What did you think of this mascot storyline (other than how terrifying that head is)?

Anuja: We should pick a week a week and dedicate our post to apologizing to all the people we hurt in high school.

Then, we can air our grievances the following week.

It will be like Festivus without the feats of strength (I’d totally lose at feats of strength).

I was a sharer with my mom. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for her, I didn’t have much to share.

Now that I’m the mother of a daughter, I hope she’ll give me the goods, at least so I can write all about it in an authentic YA novel.

Not knowing what’s going on in your kids’ heads is scary, and I can see why Mrs. Weir was so excited when Linsday (sullen, independent Lindsay) finally opened up to her.

It’s nice to be needed and trusted.

But Mrs. Weir never should’ve said anything to Nick. That was too much.

Be friendly, keep it casual, but don’t discuss the relationship.

Jean Weir will figure it out when Sam gets a girlfriend.

That’s one of the benefits of being the younger sibling — the parents made all the mistakes with the first one.

As soon as Nick said the word “poems,” I knew Heidi was telling the truth (at least somewhat). Poems are bad.

Anything written is terrible. I say this from experience. Horrible, embarrassing experience that still gives me the shakes fifteen years later.

I think we’ve all been on either side of this coin.

We’ve all been the ones who liked someone a lot more than they liked us, and vice versa.

We’ve all been rejected or have had to do the rejecting.

And that’s a lot to handle when you’re just a teenage kid whose day-to-day goal is generally not to make waves.

So, Sam. First of all, I’m proud of Sam. Even though he joins most of the things he does because of Cindy, at least he’s putting himself out there.

And hopefully, one day, at the yearbook, he’ll meet a girl much more worthy of his affection than stupid Cindy.

Anyway, the saga of Sam starts with Shia LaBeouf getting a concussion and the cheerleaders (head cheerleader being a young, blond Joanna Garcia) needing to find a replacement mascot.

Sam tries out because of Cindy, and he gets the job (even though Neal wants it so badly).

Sam does a fine job, but instead of compelling Cindy to fall in love with him, he has to run around in a horrible Viking head and listen while Cindy confesses her love for Todd, the star basketball player.

I thought the best part of this storyline was Sam finally telling Cindy that she’s stupid for liking Todd.

He barely looks at her, and it’s just so “obvious,” as Sam puts it.

I thought Cindy would wise up and realize that Todd is stupid, but then she was kissing him by the end of the episode.

And I know this won’t end well for Cindy, which doesn’t give me as much glee as I suppose it should. (I’ll stand by the sisterhood over lame jock boys any day.)

What did you think of Sam the mascot?

Ruhi: One final thing in the Lindsay story is how her dad reacts to Lindsay’s friends saying hi when he is trying to impress his friends.

It turns out that parents can get embarrassed, too.

Now to Sam as the mascot, this story perfectly showed what it is like when you like someone, think that they might like you too, and then get your heart stomped all over because they like the more popular (because that’s just what happens, especially at high school).

While I’m glad that Sam told Cindy that she was dumb for liking Todd, it’s coming from a place of resentment and jealousy, and he doesn’t tell her why he reacted this way.

Instead, he blames it on nerves, and I still think Cindy is utterly oblivious to how Sam is feeling, no matter how many subliminal messages Bill thinks Cindy is sending Sam’s way.

The scene between Todd and Sam after Todd throws up due to nerves is a nice touch as it shows Sam that jocks aren’t the cocky, confident figures that they appear to be.

It’s a look behind the curtain, and while Sam doesn’t get the girl, he can at least be reassured that the popular kids have moments of fear and doubt.

A boy carrying a big head in Freaks and Geeks We’ve Got Spirit
It’s a beloved classic television series that remains popular with audiences even decades after its original airing.

The Neal/Sam costume switch worked nicely, though I found Neal to be a little irritating with his obsession for the mascot to be funny.

This might have been intentional as Neal did a terrible job as the mascot, staying on the court when he shouldn’t, pulling on bra straps during the pyramid, and causing it to collapse.

Both Bill and baby Shia seemed to enjoy the show.

Mrs Weir wasn’t so happy when Vicki hit who she thought was Sam (and I spent the whole episode wondering where I knew her from; it turns out from everything but the blonde hair threw me), and I’m glad Neal got a little pounded on by the cheerleaders at the end.

The running gag about Shia falling asleep was good, particularly with the last shot of him asleep.

I also liked how Sam got Neal to give up his one-day dream of being the mascot by invoking Star Wars and saying, “Help me, Obi-Wann Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

This feels like the kind of thing that would work.

Bill continues to be so wonderfully weird with his advice and quips, mainly when he tells Neal that he can’t be seen with him because his ideas aren’t funny.

I’m also pretty sure I will have Norseman-related nightmares; the grin on that mascot’s head is terrifying.

Also Read: Review: The Dick Van Dyke Show, “Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?”

Muskan Ghimire
Muskan Ghimire
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