July 24, 2021

‘Friends’: sport among friends | Brand

Mnica: Every Thanksgiving we played a football game, without tackles, which was called the Geller League. […] Ross and I were always the captains. Everything became very competitive and one year, in the 6th Geller League, I accidentally broke his nose.

Ross: That was no accident. She saw that I was about to tackle her, so she hit me with her huge seal elbow in the face. And kept running.

Mnica: Yes, to score the winning touchdown, by the way.

Ross: Stop, huh, huh, huh … you didn’t win that game. The touchdown is not worth it, because of that spectacular broken nose, illegal and also wild. ”

The scene corresponds to the ninth episode of the third season, ‘The one with American football’, and the six friends end up in the park to play themselves. First Ross, Chandler and Rachel against Monica, Joey and Phoebe, then boys against girls… and the chapter ends with the Geller brothers fighting for the ball, without letting any of them drop it, while the others have returned home to give an account of a succulent dinner.

‘Friends’, of course … in case there is someone who, mentioning their characters, has not yet recognized a legendary series, returned to the present 17 years later through the special ‘The reunion’.

The protagonists are best recognized sitting indoors (two apartments in a building in Greenwich Village or the Central Perk café nearby), but 236 episodes spread over ten seasons (from 1994 to 2004) in any case offered a wide variety of sporting moments.

It does not correspond exactly to them by argument, but it cannot be ignored, insisting on the oval ball, ‘The One with the Superbowl’, double episode of the second season that NBC decided to effectively air after the decisive game of 1996 (in which the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers) and with guest stars (Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak …), so that it reached an audience of 52.9 million viewers, even higher than the one that years later would have the farewell of the series (52.5) .

It should be emphasized that ‘Friends’ takes place in New York, so that as for the great American sports teams from the Big Apple often appear. From the NFL the Giants, for example. From the NHL, the Rangers. From the Major Leagues, the Mets. From the NBA, the Knicks. But let’s go in parts …

As far as hockey is concerned (there’s a stick at Chandler and Joey’s home), it hurts even the blow Ross gets on the face during the fourth episode of the first season, ‘The George Stephanopoulos’. He is in the stands at Madison Square Garden, but he becomes the victim of a wandering record. It will not, in any case, be the only game that the Rangers witness: several seasons later it comes … on another Thanksgiving Day. And, at this point, it is convenient to introduce a reality that is hardly supported from the rational, but that does not stop being so: to the teams that appear in ‘Friends’ They did not do well at all while the series was on the air. The case of the Rangers is significant: they had won the Stanley Cup in June 1994 (defeating the Vancouver Canucks), just three months before the television premiere … but during the subsequent decade they could not celebrate it.. Returning to football and the Giants, none of his eight titles (four in the pre-Superbowl era, four since his arrival) correspond to the interval in question. From 1990 to 2007, the drought was absolute.

We cannot ignore the role that sport plays in the lives of many young people

Marta Kauffman (co-creator and executive producer of ‘Friends’)

Basketball also appears with some regularity, for example the twenty-third episode of the first season, ‘The Birth One’, when Joey argues with a single mother in childbirth about the Knicks and the Celtics, or the fifth of the tenth, ‘The one where Rachel’s sister babysits’, when Mike proposes to Phoebe during a game at Madison, encountering a refusal, and when a repentant Phoebe proposes to Mike during a later game, encountering a general boo. It is more difficult to hold third parties responsible for the New York team’s bad streak: they have not won the ring since 1973.

The case of baseball is even more curious. In the boys’ apartment, just above the television, there is a Mets cap, which is the outfit that appears the most. Consequence: not a joy at that time. The Yankees have less presence, also from the city. Consequence: titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Joey, yes, he declares himself a fan, leaving one of his own in the twenty-first episode of the ninth season, ‘The one with the fertility test’:

Charlie: I have to go to the Met …

Joey: Let me interrupt you. The Mets suck, okay? You have to see the Yankees.

Charlie: The Mets don’t; the Met, in the singular.

Joey: Here n? They all suck!

Charlie: The museum.

Joey: (without even understanding then that she is referring to the Metropolitan Museum of Art) It doesn’t suit you … “

It was clarified at the time by Marta Kauffman, co-creator and executive producer of the series: “We cannot ignore the role that sport plays in the lives of many young people.” So there is also rugby (an entire episode in which Ross tries to impress his new girlfriend, Emily, taking a tremendous physical beating for it), tennis (‘calm down, Martina’, Chandler snaps at Monica, although it is not clear if he means Navratilova or Hingis, during the doubles he measures them with Chandler’s own boss and his wife), volleyball (a court in a room on the occasion of Rachel’s birthday), hockey grass (Monica was a goalkeeper, it is discovered in the particular Trivial with which the apartments are played) boxing (one of the roles played by Joey, as an actor), sailing (Ross dons two life jackets to navigate the Hudson), UFC (too violent for Monica, who breaks up with Pete for it) … even two actions as basic from the physical as passing a ball deserve their own chapter (they keep doing it while the plots unfold, including sleepless night) to occur (if Phoebe’s peculiar style can be considered as such … later imitated by Rachel).

Among the many who learned English with ‘Friends’, by the way, a Liverpool manager: “The conversation is easy and you can understand almost all the words”, confessed in the BBC Jrgen Klopp, who even dares to imitate (also gestural) of ‘how you doin’? ‘ from Joey.

A series for history, in short … and with a unique relationship with sport. Because let’s see who doesn’t feel represented with phrases like the one Chandler says about his gym: “Oh yeah, I’m a member. I usually go four times a week … except for the last 1,200 times.”.

Chandler, the guy who could have been a tennis player

Perhaps he is the one who has paid the most expensive price of fame, perhaps he is also the one who walked the closest to professional sports before the series. “I was a very good tennis player in Ottawa [Canad], ranked nationally when he was 13 years old. Then I moved to Los Angeles when I was 15 and I realized that I would not make a living like that … I hope that the competitiveness I had is gone as I get older, “explains Matthew Perry (Chandler) who in recent years has participated in some racket-in-hand exhibition, even coinciding with Agassi.

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