Lies Saved By the Bell Told Us About Sports
Published on: March 08, 2012 | Written by: Karen Howell
When I wake up in the mornin’ and the ‘larm gives out a warnin’, I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time. I want to skip work and watch Saved by the Bell reruns on TBS. (TBS, don’t think I haven’t noticed that you’re letting Tyler Perry occupy SBTB’s time slot these days. Are you guys, like, in favor of Tyler Perry during study hall?) Doesn’t matter whether it’s an episode I’ve seen a thousand times (which is all of them), one about junior high with Miss Bliss, or even one about Kelly’s controversial relationship with a college professor (well, hello, Jeremiah Lasky). Because my love for SBTB is unwavering, I can admit that it wasn’t always the most accurate portrayal of high school life. A prime example is SBTB’s take on sports. So let’s take a walk through the hall of Bayside to uncover and analyze those misrepresentations.*
When I think of Tigers football, three episodes come to mind:
(1) when everyone painted their faces in maroon zit cream for Homecoming;
(2) when Principal Zack almost let the football players run all over Teacher Kelly; and
(3) when an alcohol-fueled toga party led to a wreck, which led to Slater having to sell his body (ok, advertisements on his uniform) to buy parts for Dr. Turtle’s car.
The only actual football we ever got to see consisted of black and white game film played in fast-forward. (TIME OUT. Ok, maybe we also occasionally saw what appeared to be late 80s Ohio State football footage (pretty sure that was the case). It cannot be confirmed that Slater ever traded Bayside gear for tattoos and/or malts, but we never saw him pay for a meal at The Max. TIME IN.) However, we didn’t have to see Slater in action to know that he was the wet-haired Stephen Garcia of his day.
There is one over-arching problem with Slater being the star quarterback: his love for chameleons. I’m not saying AC would have been more of a quarterback had he raised Artie to fight other chameleons to the death, but can you imagine the field day defensive linemen would have had with him? Especially if there were a bounty for injuries to quarterbacks and/or their lizards.
In addition to his love for chameleons, we also know that Slater couldn’t have possibly been a football stud and the big man on campus because he baked a mean pineapple upside down cake and he once wore this in public:
I think it’s safe to say that at any of our high schools, if you wear hot pink spandex to the high school hangout, you aren’t gonna be captain of the football team. Which brings me to my next point...
Though Slater dabbled in other sports, his real strength was wrestling, as displayed in his late 80s Tyson-esque defeat of Marvin Niedick and his eventual acceptance of a scholarship to wrestling powerhouse “I-owa Zack 10 bucks.” That is no doubt because he would rather wear a wrestling singlet than his street clothes. (TIME OUT. In a word association experiment, nine out of ten people responded to “Slater” with “MC Hammer.” One out of ten responded with “Pig.” TIME IN.)
Now, I am in no position to evaluate whether the wrestling matches on SBTB were legit. Why not? Because unlike what SBTB would have us believe, wrestling isn’t a cool sport. In fairness, it may be a cool sport in most parts of the country (and I thought Bailey Salinger was pretty hot for his wrestling skills back in the Party of Five days), but in the south, not so much. Unless it involves gators and/or men in tall leather boots and Speedos. I do agree with SBTB’s inference that wrestling allows one to become comfortable enough in one’s skin to take on multiple spandex dance exhibitions.
Slater wasn’t the only wrestler at Bayside. No, there was also the shorter, more athletic Kelly Clarkson look-alike that Zack dated for 30 minutes. Really, SBTB? The female wrestler gets the hunk? Really? Zack grew a lot as a person that episode, learning to put his male ego aside and accept the fact that Kristy Barnes could beat him up anytime she wanted. But not nearly as much as he grew when he dated the girl in the wheelchair (when he learned not to pick up a girl through a Teen Line – but did it again anyway #Nitro) or when he dated the overweight girl who won him at the date auction (when he learned that big girls need love, too).
Is cheerleading a sport? In my opinion, competitive cheerleading, i.e., cheerleading that involves ridiculous gymnastics and stunts, is a sport. Bayside’s version of cheerleading, however, did not fit that description.
The only cheerleading-centric episode of SBTB involved a city-wide competition that Valley and B-ba-B-bababa-Bayside were favored to win. And, yes, it just happened to occur in the middle of the prank war between the schools. Of course Bayside won. (“Valley rules”? Was that your best effort, Valley? For sure?) The Tigers’ competition routine marked the one and only time the squad did any gymnastics. Well, actually, it was the mascot, not even a real Bayside student (I see you, Valley prankster), who did an ants-in-my-pants-induced cartwheel and round-off.
In addition to the fact that the Bayside squad typically consisted of no more than five girls (ok, usually just Jessie, Lisa, and/or Kelly), there was also the issue of their uniforms. First, there are the men’s polo shirts tucked into their skirts. Then there are their skirts. A legit cheerleading squad would never wear skirts that long, yet they were still too short for Jessie. (I realize the skirts pictured are not the ones they ended up in, but they highlight Jessie’s hypocrisy.) Really, Jessie? Then explain how you ended up in a spandex-filled dance video just weeks later as a member of the sultry Hot Sundae, Bayside’s version of En Vouge. You no doubt blame the pills. And though you claimed to be scared, you didn’t seem so scared a few years later in Vegas. #SoExcited Children of future generations reading this article that was left in a time capsule on the Bayside campus, if you learn anything from Mama’s example, make it this: spandex is a gate-way fabric that leads to not wearing any fabric at all.
Were Lisa, Jessie, and Kelly serious about swimming? No, they just knew Zack well enough to know that he would use unauthorized photos of their swim team practice to create a Girls of Bayside calendar. (Lisa, do you really expect me to believe that you randomly salute people during practice?) The calendar, of course, resulted in Kelly signing a modeling contract and heading off to Paris for a month. (TIME OUT. Did Kelly really go to Paris, or did she transfer to West Beverly High for the semester so that she could rebel by smoking pot and stealing boyfriends? Word on the street is that Violet Anne Bickerstaff transferred to West Bev to join its superior glee club She was only allowed to graduate after her classmates successfully protested a negative school board ruling. TIME IN.)
I have a hard time believing the girls were really on the swim team. If they were, would they have time to do things like film a Buddy Bands commercial, protest the cafeteria’s use of Styrofoam cups, or star in the school's rhythmically challenged rap opera Snow White and the Seven Dorks (which clearly was the inspiration behind Eminem's rise to fame)? Also, does Peter Engel expect us to believe that the girls’ necks would be so under-developed if they were actually part of a competitive relay team? We at least know that Kelly wasn’t serious about the sport given the fact that she, the anchor, was willing to leave right before a big meet.
Running Zack was the episode that introduced us not only to Zack’s track prowess, but also to his Native American heritage. Turns out his highlights were intended to cover his roots in more ways than one. As you may recall, in order to be eligible to run the mile against Valley, Preppie had to complete a class project that required him to learn about his ancestors. His teacher set him up with Chief Henry, who, in addition to being a wealth of knowledge on the history of Zack’s people, was capable of bead and leather work that would make all of Pinterest sit up and take notice. (The Chief, more likely than not, was also a medical marijuana prescription carrier well before it became trendy.) When Chief Henry passed away suddenly (or maybe became a werewolf), Zack thought there was no way he could run in the meet. That is, until Chief Henry came to him in a dream and burned the letters “Beat Valley” into his Running Zack headband.
My problem with SBTB’s take on track is that it really is not as common as you’d think for a dead Native American to burn a runner’s Indian name into a leather headband.
Another issue with this episode is Zack’s name. Running Zack doesn’t seem like the most appropriate choice for him given that this was the one and only mention of his track and field exploits. I’ll Probably Only Date You For One Episode No Matter How Persistently I Pursued You Zack, or A-Pee-Pee-Poo A-Pee-Pee-Poo Zack, or even Not Just Big Phone in Pocket Morris would have made much more sense. As a matter of fact, this entire episode made me very uncomfortable with its racist undertones. And don't even get me started on the caricature that was Chief Henry. It was all a little too heavy for a Saturday morning before Hang Time, don't you think?
Some of my favorite SBTB episodes are the ones about the gangs’ summer at the Malibu Sands Beach Club. I liked the Stacey/Zack dynamic and wanted to comfort Zack after Stacey left him for the East Coast. (He was lookin’ right in his matching denim shirt and jeans, seashell tie (I think), and white sneakers--the obvious pre-Crocs beach shoe.) Anyway, one of the big events of the summer was the beach volleyball game against North Beach. On the line for Zack: Mr. Carosi’s car. And pride. There’s always pride.
The gang found a ringer in the apparently 8’4” Gary. However, when Screech dropped a water jug on Gary’s foot, ending his beach volleyball season, Team Malibu Sands was in a tight spot. The potential replacements were an old woman, a pasty dork not named Screech, and a little girl who Screech lured to the tryouts by promising her a sucker. (Public Service Announcement: IF YOU SEE DUSTIN DIAMOND USING PROMISES OF CANDY TO LURE A LITTLE GIRL INTO HIS CAR, CALL Liam Neeson.)
Spoiler alert: The team was able to pull off a win because Stacey agreed to play after the non-Screech dork was injured stretching.
Despite the victory, there are some fundamental problems with SBTB’s portrayal of beach volleyball. First and foremost, not a single one of the players was wearing cutoff jean shorts. To make matters worse, there was no Kenny Loggins soundtrack, there were far too many women playing and watching, neither side’s players randomly flexed their muscles, and Slater was not wearing his dog tags. #DangerZone
Forcing himself upon the Bayside basketball team Buddy Garrity style, Mr. Belding accidentally ran into Zack as the team was leaving the locker room to take the court. The result: Zack ended up in the hospital with a knee injury and had to go under the knife. The lesson from this episode was that if you tear your ACL, you’re as good as dead. Unless you have access to a surgeon like Dr. Turtle. (Was she a 10 or what?) Two problems. One, Zack was way too nervous about surgery. Dreaming that Lisa and Kelly were doing in memoriam cheers, throwing their pom-poms into his locker candle-light-vigil style? Weak. (Promise I don’t know the words to that cheer by heart.) Two, Lisa was a candy striper in this episode. In real life, there are no candy stripers, only strippers named Candy.
This is also the only time Zack and Senator Strom Thurmond ever had the same dream fantasy.
Zack and the gang got a chance at wheelchair basketball, too. (Herc would call that a lady sport. #FNLRugby) Much like the one on Hang Time, the Bayside basketball court was about as big as a classroom and the goal was only slightly taller than Jessie.
I know what you’re thinking: none of the guys played baseball. Not so fast. Remember the time Becky the Duck was hit by a ball during baseball practice? (Turns out, that was the least of Becky’s troubles. Final Score: Oil – 1, Becky the Duck - 0.) Or the time the students of Bayside were up in arms over how to spend the money an alum left the school in his will? The guys were pretty insistent that the money go toward Ray Bans for the outfielders. Okay, okay…to be honest, I really mention baseball so that I can mention the will so that I can mention the Guys vs. Girls challenge so that I can mention Tori.
Tori, Tori, Tori. How to explain Tori? I like to imagine that one day, Brandon Tartikoff and Johnny Dakota were sitting around smoking weed and came up with the idea to introduce a strong biker type instead of explaining the sudden absence of Jessie and Kelly. Then they decided to make the biker a girl, allegedly. (They could have at least claimed Jessie and Graham were protesting in DC. And maybe Kelly went to meet Jeff’s parents.) The following is a visual aid depicting a few people who are more likable than Tori:
Finally, it’s worth addressing SBTB’s take on sports radio. After discovering the room that housed Bayside’s former radio station KKTY, the gang convinced Mr. Belding (aka The Big Bopper) to put it back on the air. Slater immediately requested the sports segment. However, after finding out that his friends agreed with the bad reviews in the school paper, he quit. Fortunately, he came back in time to help with the telethon to save The Max. (TIME OUT. Why was The Max having financial problems? It was always full. I thought its downfall would be the fact that Max wasn’t allowed within 1000 feet of a school. #creepymagician TIME IN.)
The problem with SBTB’s version of sports radio is its inference that if you suck at being a sports radio host, you should quit. I think we all know people who, thank goodness, don’t abide by that rule.
*Just as I was finishing this, Elizabeth Berkley (aka Jessie Spano aka Mama aka Stansbury Reject) announced that she’s pregnant. Here are some of my thoughts on a Jesse Spano pregnancy.
(1) I hope it’s not a caffeine baby.
(2) If it’s Slater’s, I hope they don’t make baby balloon pants.
(3) If it’s not Slater’s, I hope it’s Rod Belding’s.
(4) If it’s a boy, will she keep it?
(5) I hope it isn’t one of those dumb babies that can’t read.
(6) Will Eric be a good step-uncle?
(7) She’s definitely having that baby in a bathtub, right?
(8) If she rides on any elevators during her pregnancy, she should make sure Zack and Tori are with her (it’s about time she met Tori).
(9) Thank goodness she has a ready supply of mom jeans.
(10) She's at a public breastfeeding rally right now.