Freaks And Geeks: S01E09 “We’ve Got Spirit”

SPOILER WARNING: I’m assuming in these reviews that readers have seen the show.

The most bizarre thing about this episode is its premise, because neither freaks nor geeks in high school tend to be filled with school spirit. I know when I was in high school, most of the time I didn’t give two shits about how the football team was doing or whether the basketball team would win on Friday, or any of it. Pep rallies I avoided like the plague, except on one or two occasions where the school forced us to go; sheer torture. I had a thinly veiled contempt for the jocks and cheerleaders, and I did my best not to be jealous of the latter. There were, however, a few jocks and cheerleaders who were also smart, and thus turned up in my AP classes. Most of them were also pretty nice. This stunted stereotyping I might otherwise have indulged in.

And the strangest thing is that once a year, I did have school spirit. It was at Thanksgiving, when our Webster Groves football team had its traditional Turkey Day game with its rival school, Kirkwood. The Statesmen and the Pioneers would battle on the field for the honor of winning the Frisco Bell for another year, and plenty of people, including me, would show up to cheer on their school’s team. Why I suddenly developed a mania for one particular football game, I still don’t know. But it was fun. I’d be psyched when Webster won, and downhearted when it lost. (Thanksgiving dinner helped to blot out the latter events.)

The point is that under the right conditions, anyone can have school spirit, even the outgroups; and We’ve Got Spirit explores some of the possibilities when this happens. Sam, of course, has his crush on cheerleader Cindy to help fuel his interest; so when the school mascot has a mishap and breaks his arm, he doesn’t need much encouragement from Bill to volunteer for tryouts. Neal, being the class clown that he is, wants the job even more than Sam; but he defers to his friend at first, grumbling to Bill on the sidelines about how unfunny the mascot’s routines are. (Bill wisely realizes that the mascot’s job is not so much to make the audience laugh as to get them psyched to beat the other team.)

Unfortunately, Sam’s stint as mascot doesn’t go as he expects. The job isn’t easy; apart from wearing a huge, heavy head and waving a sword, he has to climb a pyramid of girls without pulling their hair or bra straps. And Vicki, the head cheerleader, is a drill sergeant who berates his attempts mercilessly. It would all have been worth it for Cindy’s attention, but she’s got her own crush: Todd, the handsome star of the basketball team.

Meanwhile, Lindsey is still trying to deal with Nick’s obsession with her, worsened when she realizes he’s had a difficult time with breakups in his past. His ex-girlfriend Heidi warns Lindsey that Nick stalked her. Nick denies it, calling Heidi a liar; but we’ve already seen that he cut her out of a photograph. It doesn’t help that Kim warns her that “He kind of went a little berserk,” and that Nick has started knocking on her window at night when she’s in bed. She knows she’s got to break up with him, but fear and the desire not to hurt Nick’s feelings leaves her paralyzed.

While these relationship blues are unfolding, Daniel and Ken are spurred into their display of spirit when rivals from Lincoln High dump food and drinks on them in the parking lot. They eventually catch up to the offenders and key their car, but get into a fight when discovered. Naturally, this gets them hyped for the upcoming game.

At the game, of course, everything comes to a head. Due to an innocent remark from Jean, Nick realizes that Lindsay wants to break up with him. To his credit, he steps up to the plate and tells Lindsay that he wants to break up with her. This leads to tears on both sides in a couple of heartwrenching scenes. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone, Sam sees Todd and Cindy having a chat, with an excited Cindy telling him afterwards that he asked her out, and what should she do? Poor Sam decides that the mascot position is not for him, handing off the head to a thrilled Neal. The ensuing chaos is funny, but not in the way that he envisions.

We’ve Got Spirit is one of the show’s best episodes, with plenty of laughs and emotional and thoughtful moments. Sometimes we all want to cheer for the home team.

Points Of Interest

*Mike White, who wrote the seminal Kim Kelly Is My Friend, penned this episode.

*You gotta love a poster which reads Assassinate Lincoln.

*I expected the worst when Todd says in all sincerity, “I want to thank Coach and God,”; but he turns out to be a decent guy who is so nervous that he throws up in the restroom before the game.

*A very young Shia LaBeouf plays the former mascot. He gives Sam some good advice about being a mascot while trying not to fall asleep because of his potential concussion.

*”You had to go and quote the Star Wars, didn’t you.”

*”My cousin slipped into a coma once. When he woke up, he spoke fluent Spanish.”

*”How Funky is your Chicken? How Loose is your Goose?”

*I love it that Harold is a member of both the Masons AND the Rotary. Does the Rotary still exist??

*Ken, on hearing that Lindsey’s going to break up with Nick: “Hate to be that guy’s drum set tonight.”

*As usual, the music is used perfectly. As much as I hate Ted Nugent, his song Stranglehold works well during the game, as does Van Halen’s instrumental piece during the portions filmed in Mascot-O-Vision. And the Who’s Song Is Over is gorgeously sad when Nick is crying in his car.

*Daniel saves the game by being a believing Catholic.

Next up: The Diary