People who like comedy and people who like history are not traditionally people who like sports, so it’s a pleasant surprise that “Sports Heroes” turns out to be a genuinely solid episode of Drunk History. Then again, people who like sports do enjoy drinking, so maybe the connection isn’t so thin after all.
Preston Flagg kicks things off with the story of Jim Thorpe, dubbed by many as the The Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century. The segment flags a little at first, as we mostly see montages of Thorpe (Jason Momoa) training and Olympics-ing with little of the dubbed drunk dialogue from which Drunk History gets its best laughs. And Flagg borders on being an annoying vs. an entertaining drunk, losing his train of thought and getting easily distracted by the boom mic in front of him. But Momoa comes through as the MVP, showing he’s got range beyond his grumpy warrior face as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones. Flagg rallies at the end, too, giving Thorpe a hilarious victory speech after winning the Olympic decathlon and pentathlon. (“I’ve done everything, I’m talkin’ ‘bout ever-a-ray-thang.”)
Karey Dornetto either wasn’t drinking as much or can hold her liquor better than Flagg, because she gives a much more lucid—and more entertaining—biography of Babe Didrickson Zaharias, best known as a golfer and founder of the LPGA. (“L stands for ‘Ladies.’”) Portraying Zaharias, Emily Deschanel jumps in with both feet, with a big assist from Dornetto’s smart, specific storytelling. Never mind that Deschanel clearly has no real athletic skill. (Zaharias isn’t winning any tournaments with that swing.) She sells Zaharias’ legendary status with her enthusiastic confidence and fuck-all-y’all attitude. A great combo overall of strong story, snappy pacing and playful performances.
Pulling up the rear is Matt Jones with the story of baseball star Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand and went on to become one of the game’s best pitchers. It helps that Jones, best known as Badger on Breaking Bad, always sounds a little drunk when he talks, anyway. But he also proves to be a charming storyteller and improviser. Again, the segment relies heavily on compilations of Abbott pitching instead talking, but Jones’ exuberant monologues keep the energy up. And when Abbott does talk, Jones gives him a profane sarcasm, nicely captured by Friday Night Lights alum Zach Gilford. At the end, Jones pours himself another glass of wine and asks, “What else do you want to talk about?” And I’ve gotta say, I might be up for a spinoff called Drunk Matt Jones.
We’re heading into the season finale next week, focusing on “First Ladies.” With a third season already green-lit, Waters has established that Drunk History is more than a web video gimmick and has some legit staying power. He’ll finish up Season 2 with guest appearances by Casey Wilson, Courteney Cox and Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat, capping off an impressive casting streak that’s sure to get even better as the show gets bigger. Not every drunk deserves an audience, but Drunk History very much does.