Viewers expressed skepticism when FX announced that it would create a fantasy football-themed TV show in 2009. Fantasy football did have a cult following, but not so widespread as to potentially draw viewers who didn’t play the game. Well, seven years later, The League –everybody’s favorite fantasy football-themed TV show — concluded a seven-season tenure. Okay, it’s the only fantasy football-themed TV show, so it’s easy to put it on top of the list.
One of the reasons the show did so well stems from the fact that it wasn’t just about fantasy football; you could like it without liking fantasy football. Then again, many of the jokes stemmed from or involved the fantasy game, thus making the show even more enjoyable for those in the know. And the series boasted regular cameo appearances of famous football faces, making it all the more enjoyable, especially if you were a fan of the represented teams.
Whether or not you liked or watched the show, The League’s Entourage-esque stream of football celebrities gave the show a real-life vibe. Whether it was fantasy football expert Matthew Barry providing input during one episode, or football analyst Terry Bradshaw purposely giving poor advice to Kevin, the show had an impressive reach. So, in honor of the bittersweet ending to the first ever fantasy football-themed TV show, here are the four best player appearances.
1. Marshawn Lynch
While the Seahawks running back appeared on the show before the most recent season, his cameo in the season seven premiere was by far one of the best. Occurring just months after the infamous final play of Super Bowl XLIX, where the Seahawks failed to run the ball on a short final play, the writers perfectly mocked said decision calling. Not only is Lynch a board member of Taco Corp. on the show, but he’s also one of the cofounders of the EBDB, created by none other than Jon Lajoie’s character, Taco.
Needless to say, when Lynch’s football career ends, he has a proven track record as an actor. In his brief appearances on the show, the usually laid-back Lynch showed America a different side than his typical “no comment” press conferences. And hey, maybe he won’t be paid in Skittles like Taco pays him on the show.
2. Antonio Gates
Making an appearance in The League’s inaugural season, Gates was one of first player cameos. And in doing so, made something that many players were likely skeptical about seemingly normal. One of the NFL’s better tight ends — who was having a terrific season when he appeared on the show — Gates met Ruxin, played by Nick Kroll, in a hot tub during a weekend trip. Just as any fantasy football fan would love to do when an opposing player dominates them the week before, Ruxin accosted Gates about scoring so many fantasy points.
In reality, most of us probably would not have the courage to actually berate a professional football player over a fantasy performance — well, minus behind a Twitter veil or anonymous chat room — but you never know. This encounter ended with Gates punching Ruxin, which was certainly one of the more memorable appearances on the show. Gates reprised his role later in the series, having yet another awkward encounter with Ruxin.
3. J.J. Watt
After Watt’s multiple cameo appearances on the show, it begs the question, what can’t the Texans’ defensive end do? Judging from his performances on The League, it turns out he’s a pretty good actor. As the host of the fifth season’s annual draft, Watt hung around for the entire episode and even managed to get the Texans’ defense that he anchors taken in the first round — yes, a tad bit high for any defensive unit.
But it was later on in the episode when he really revealed his true acting chops. The gang accidentally loots Watt’s hotel room’s mini fridge thinking it was Andre’s, and they find out what a quarterback on the receiving end of a Watt sack feels like in the process. Three things were made clear by the end of that episode: Don’t loot J.J. Watt’s mini fridge, don’t take a defense and/or a kicker in the first round, and don’t draft retired players (i.e. a classic Andre move).
4. Jay Cutler
Considering the fact that the show takes place in Chicago, it surprising that Bears players weren’t featured more often. While the Chicago quarterback seemed to take the back seat to his newborn baby in his brief stint on the show, who doesn’t love a good baby milk theft? That is what happens, after all, when Jenny and Kevin found themselves in the same class as Cutler and his wife, Kristin Cavalleri. Jenny managed to hijack a bottle of milk from the “cutlet,” as their child is so aptly called, but shockingly got caught later on in the episode. Just as many of The League’s legendary cameo appearances go, this one bordered on ridiculous — albeit hilariously ridiculous.