10 Secretly Athletic TV Characters


In keeping with our intense and very serious coverage of the Olympics, today we’re spotlighting the lesser-known athletes of some of our favorite television shows. While some characters, like Chris Traeger and Schmidt, consider fitness one of their defining attributes, others play more coy, keeping their athletic abilities all but hidden. Click through for our roundup of these “secret” career highlights, which includes everything from Jazz-Kwon-Do and archery to spin class, as well as some names you might recognize, including Betty Draper, Marge Simpson, and Pete Hornberger. Have we overlooked any of your favorite characters’ athletic achievements? Let us know in the comments.

30 Rock: Pete Hornberger

Many don’t know it, but before TGS, Pete was valedictorian of his high school class, fourth guitarist in Loverboy, and an Olympic archer. Unfortunately, he was never able to compete at the Olympics due the Moscow Games boycott, which is a shame considering that his catchphrase — “Yes, Hornberger!” — would have surely taken the country by storm.

Mad Men: Betty Draper

We know Season 2 seems but a distant memory at this point, but let’s not forget Betty’s equestrian story arc, which led to some uncomfortable flirtations with fellow rider Arthur Case (played by a baby-faced Gabriel Mann). To this day his “You’re so profoundly sad” comment in the shadows of the stables sticks in our craw, but we have to give Betty props for adeptly dismissing his wildly presumptuous advances. Given this woman’s mental and physical strength, she could have been a serious athlete in another lifetime.

The Office: Toby Flenderson

Michael might have stole the show with his fettucini alfredo carbo-load incident, but Toby, we remember that you were the true winner of “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run For The Cure” — and in record time too! Albeit with some help from the Immodium Dwight slipped into your in drink instead of Ex-Lax.

The Simpsons: Marge Simpson (and Mr. Burns)

In “The Great Wife Hope,” we learned that Springfield’s frail overlord Mr. Burns wrestled in the “etherweight” class at Yale, and more importantly, that Marge Simpson can kick ass (even if fighting is against every moral fiber in her body). Remember how she took down Chet Englebrit in the Ultimate Punch Kick and Choke Championship?

True Blood: Tara Thornton

While there was never a question in our mind that Tara had athletic ability, we saw her officially put it to use when she hightailed out of Bon Temps at the end of Season 3 and became a cage fighter named Toni. This season we’ve seen Tara grow into her newfound vampire super-strength and speed, but we have to say, in her brief, Sookie-free stint, she really seemed to come into her own through the martial arts.

Gossip Girl: Blair Waldorf

Blair and Serena’s early feuding took a turn for the worse in a gym class game of field hockey, in which Blair proved she does not play nice and is still quite agile in a highly cinched fashion belt. That said, her trash-talking could have used some work. “It’s over when I say it’s over,” was noticeably lacking her normally more creative Waldorf bite (although variations on those same words always seem to work for Walter White…).

Community: Shirley Bennett

In “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism,” we learned not only that Shirley was a wicked foosball player in her youth, but also that she made one of her opponents — a pre-pubescent Jeffrey Winger — pee his pants. Years later, Jeff trains under Shirley’s tutelage to take on the resident German team (who are a bunch of cocky jerks), but only after they settle their differences in anime!

Happy Endings: Penny Hartz

After Jane kicks Penny’s butt in self-defense class, she retreats to the less intense world of Jazzercise. While there, she gathers her strength before returning to self-defense class to wield a lethal combination of techniques known as “Jazz-Kwon-Do” on Jane. Penny wins, of course, and then gives the gang a private lesson in her newfound art of self-defense. Now, where do we sign-up? To borrow from Lloyd Dobler, “Jazz-Kwon-Do. Sport of the future.”

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Larry David

We always knew that Larry had a thing for golf, but in “The Hot Towel” we see his running stamina — and bare man-legs — on full display when he has to flee from the jealous boyfriend of a date he had difficulty getting to second base with due to a burnt hand. Incidentally, this is the same episode in which we learn that many people don’t consider running shorts pants (see Ted Danson’s umbrage at the sight of Larry’s legs above).

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Dee and Dennis

While we technically never saw Dee and Dennis exercise, they did put in an honest effort to get healthier in “Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack.” They got a gym membership, bought new workout clothes, and amped up on fat burner and nitric oxide energy snacks. Unfortunately, some disagreements with their spin instructor and an addiction to chemicals derailed their plan, but for a second there, we saw these guys sort of try to push themselves.

For a character who does take spin seriously, refer back to Schmidt.