One day at the Springfield Little League Park, Bart catches the winning ball for the town's little league team, the Isotots, which sends them into the Little League Championships against Shelbyville. Because of this, the town celebrates the team as heroes and gives them the right to "behave like arrogant oafs", allowing Bart to moon them and happily get pelted with eggs by the team. Before the game, the Simpsons go shopping at Costington's and a tired Homer decides to rest on one of the sale mattresses. When he is caught in the mattress, he tries to save face by complimenting its qualities, which convinces a customer to buy the mattress. The owner of the store goes to Homer to congratulate him for making the sale and hires him as a mattress salesman.
On the day of the big game, with Shelbyville loading the bases and Springfield on the verge of winning. However, Bart misses the pop fly and constantly fumbles ball trying to pick it up, allowing Shelbyville to score four runs win the game, and costing Springfield the championship. The spectators boo Bart for causing the team to lose and he runs to Chief Wiggum to escape the mob. However, the Chief drives Bart back into and around the stadium and opens the car's roof so the crowd can throw garbage and beer cans at him. Bart is totally humiliated and is now a pariah.
Meanwhile, while Homer is selling mattresses, Reverend Lovejoy comes to him to help him find a mattress to put the spark back in his love life with his wife Helen. Homer suggests the "Snugglux" by Matrimonium and they buy it. The next day, the Lovejoys come to the house to tell Homer that their troubles haven't been solved, but as Homer is writing them a refund check, they begin making out on Homer and Marge's bed and enjoy their experience. They and Homer trade each other's mattresses; the next day, the Simpsons are stagnant and bored while the Lovejoys are acting giddy in church.
For the past few days, Bart has been getting harassed nonstop by Springfield's denizens for his error. In fact, the KBBL radio station has Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney sing "Bart Stinks" as part of its "Bash Bart Block". Seeing Bart depressed from the abuse, Lisa tries to cheer him up by taking him to a baseball convention to meet Joe LaBoot, a veteran player who had a similar experience as Bart's when his fumble ended up scarring the First Lady. Bart is at first relieved that somebody sympathizes with him, until LaBoot discovers his identity and gets everyone in the room to boo him, making Bart feel even worse. The next morning, Bart is gone, and Lisa wakes up to find that somebody had spray-painted the words "I HATE BART SIMPSON" over the front of the house. She and Marge explore the town to find that the phrase had been painted all over town (including on a passed out Barney), and discover the citizens looking up at the vandal writing the phrase on the watertower and discover that the vandal is none other than Bart himself, who has snapped into a state of self-loathing from the town's constant harassment. At the town's insistence, Bart jumps from the tower in a suicidal attempt to escape his ordeal.
Bart survives his fall and is knocked unconscious. While Marge visits him in the hospital, she hears a mob of townspeople outside chanting "Bart sucks!". Finally having had enough of the town's constant bullying, she steps outside and chews them out on their extreme vindictive behavior, effectively more than living up to their title as the "meanest city in America". Feeling guilty, the townspeople apologize for hurting Bart and agree to restage the game to fix his self-esteem. Bart awakens in his baseball uniform on the field and, after 78 tries, Bart finally catches the ball and "wins" the game.
In the meantime, Homer and Marge try to sneak back into the Lovejoys' house to reclaim their mattress, but they catch them in the act and, after a brief squabble, they settle on splitting the mattress in half "Solomon style". The Simpsons end up taking their half of the mattress and make out on it behind a billboard, just like they did on their honeymoon.
The episode ends sometime in the future, where an elderly Bart and Milhouse living at the retirement home commenting on the events that transpired, while a ghostly Homer asks Marge for ghost sex despite her pleas that it's "worse than nothing".
"The Boys Of Bummer" contains examples of :
- Adult Fear: Having your young child be ruthlessly tortured by the entire city to the point of attempted suicide is a really dark thought. And even worse when, even after said child is resuscitated from the attempted suicide, the city continues to torture him. This thankfully brings out Marge's Mama Bear instincts to call out Springfield for their cruelty.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Coach Flanders points at his black armband and tells the kids to play for Groundskeeper Willie... who made the armband.
- Baseball Episode: The plot hinges on Bart's snafu making his team lose.
- Break the Haughty: Bart was pretty haughty about his worthiness to the team until he missed the ball and the bullying started. This gets to the point where he gets Driven to Suicide.
- The Bully: Practically everyone in Springfieldnote is one towards Bart, going as far as to encourage Bart to kill himself. And they still bully him after he's hospitalized, forcing Marge to condemn their evil acts on him. It's honestly a miracle they didn't target her next for daring to call them out, as they did with Homer.
- Buried Alive: "Bart, Cottontail died. Dad buried him in the backyard — but not in that order."
- Butt-Monkey: Bart really gets it in this episode. And it's not completely played for laughs, either.
- Card-Carrying Villain: The whole town quite proudly (literally, as in has it on billboards advertising the place) labels itself "The Meanest City In America".
- Captain Obvious: The cover of one of Lenny's mystery novels has the phrase "The Murderer Did It".
- Cerebus Retcon: Many previous episodes had showcased that Springfield is a town full of sore losers that will seek revenge on whoever made them lose with extreme prejudice (at one point arriving to the airport when their losing football team arrived to scream insults at them and toss rocks and even try to lynch them). This episode shows that they are perfectly willing and able to bring this insane amount of cruelty down upon a little kid without any hesitation and that they are actually proud of this being one of the facts the rest of the country knows best about the city. By the time Marge manages to shame the mob, this has long since stopped being funny.
- Champions on the Inside: As the rest of this page shows, this trope is averted to high heaven.
- Crapsack World: During her speech, Marge addresses a nearby billboard citing Springfield as the "Meanest City in America". After the townspeople's actions in this episode, she couldn't agree more.
- Despair Event Horizon: Bart comes very close to this when he tries to kill himself thanks to being hated and bullied by everyone in town.
- Distant Finale: Showcasing three things: Bart and Milhouse will live in the Retirement Castle, Bart will continue to gloat about the win the town provided him out of pity (and will continue to fall into suicidal despair if someone brings out the truth, forcing them to lie that they were just joking) well into his old age, and that Marge and Homer have a lousy sex life as ghosts.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Played almost to the point of deconstruction. The town's cruelty to Bart, who did a simple mistake at a sport that is unimportant, would be absurdly cruel if he was a grown man. Doing that to a kid just paints the town as a horde of complete psychos.
- Double Standard: The town turns against Bart to such an extreme degree that Moe vilifies Homer for not using a condom to prevent Bart's conception, and when Homer stands up for Bart the crowd turns on him until he takes their side (which he does almost immediately, calling him a "choke artist"). However, none make a similar accusation regarding Marge not taking the pill and when she confronts the mob, none attack her and she single-handedly convinces them to stand down. Some see this as a gender-based Double Standard, adding to the sour reception of the episode since Marge is spared vilification from doing the same things that Homer gets attacked for.
- Down to the Last Play: Bart was supposed to catch a simple fly ball and his team would have won... except that he didn't, leading to the plot.
- Driven to Suicide: Springfield's cruelty results in Bart jumping from a water tower. Thankfully, he survives, though is knocked unconscious.
- Epic Fail:
- For the sake of trying to help Bart feel okay, the whole town makes a new game and they try to make Bart the hero of the day. Emphasis on "try". An absurd barrage of failures make it so Bart can't catch a single ball or do anything else right (not to mention add another bunch of humiliations), and by the time he finally makes the play, it's nighttime and almost everybody who was watching had gone home or was falling asleep (and the umpire had to order the play to be redone so many times that it was probably illegal).
- LaBoot's attempt to try to catch a suicidal Bart ends with the latter getting hospitalized and the former jeered by a passing Abe.
- Easily Forgiven: After driving Bart to kill himself, he and his family forgave the whole town after one little apology. Homer moreso as they quickly forget him defending Bart as soon as the mattress subplot starts.
- Even Evil Has Standards: LaBoot may be willing to make fun of Bart for making an error he himself made decades ago, but encouraging Bart to jump off a water tower? That's too far for him.
- Evil All Along: LaBoot seems to be sympathetic to Bart's situation, but upon learning his name, he reveals his true nature by cruelly telling him off.LaBoot: You stink like a Dutchman's throw-up! Talking to you is the biggest error of my life!(Crowd boos at Bart)LaBoot: Boo. Boo, indeed.
- Evil Counterpart: LaBoot to Bart, as they were both bullied for missing a single ball.
- Fan Disservice: Moe running onto the baseball field naked.
- Faux Affably Evil: LaBoot acts sympathetic towards Bart... but upon learning his name, he verbally chastises him into a depression.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Bart losing the game results in almost everyone hating him and wanting him dead.
- Hate Sink: Joe LaBoot. He initially acts sympathetic towards Bart due to having a similar incident himself in his youth, but once he learns Bart's name, he proves himself to be a detestable hypocrite by heartlessly encouraging the townspeople to drive Bart into the Despair Event Horizon. It becomes rather amusing when Abe Simpson berates him.
- Hidden Depths: Lenny is revealed to be the author of a successful series of mystery novels that are praised by Stephen King.
- Hope Spot: Lisa brings Bart to meet Joe LaBoot, one of the acknowledged worst baseball players of all time and who still has made some fame and a privileged life out of it (even if people like Grandpa keep hating him for his error), and who gives Bart a speech about not letting a single bad moment in his life drag him down. The moment LaBoot finds out that he's talking to Bart Simpson, he starts to attack Bart, heartlessly shoving him to the Despair Event Horizon.
- Hypocrite: LaBoot chides Bart for his fumble despite not only doing the same thing himself years ago, but doing it much worse when he supposedly disfigured the first lady.
- I Have This Friend...: Reverend Lovejoy when he comes to Homer about his bed problems.Lovejoy: I have a friend. Well, a friend of a friend.Homer: (loudly) Sex problem, eh?
- Judgment of Solomon: The Simpsons and Lovejoys decide who gets the mattress by splitting the mattress diagonally, making it look like a grilled cheese sandwich.
- Kick the Dog: Or, in this case, Torture the Dog. Driving a ten year old boy to suicide is one the nastiest things anyone in the show has pulled. LaBoot was an especially bad case; once he learns Bart's name, he's outright evil towards him.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Bart jumps off the town's water tower and is knocked into a coma. The town decides to stand outside his hospital window and keep ragging on him, even if he's completely unable to hear or react to them. This is what hits Marge's Rage Breaking Point and makes her tell off the whole town.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Grampa Simpson belittling LaBoot.Grampa: You stink, LaBoot!
- Lack of Empathy:
- Even after Bart is hospitalized from his attempted suicide, the citizens still harass him. Thankfully, Marge sets them straight.
- Despite himself going through similar circumstances as Bart in his youth, LaBoot proves himself to be just as unsympathetic to Bart's misery as the townsfolk. He even encourages the townsfolk to chastise him into the Despair Event Horizon.LaBoot: Boo. Boo, indeed.
- Left the Background Music On: When Marge and Homer sneak into the Lovejoys' house to retrieve their mattress, Homer imitates a sneaky high-top cymbal like in a spy movie until Marge tells him to cut it out.
- Madness Mantra: Bart showcases he's finally snapped from the bullying when he spray-paints "I HATE BART SIMPSON" all over town. And it's the last thing he says before jumping off the tower.Bart (manic, on top of the water tower): Look, people! I hate Bart Simpson, too! Now we can be friends again!
- Mama Bear: After finding out the hard way that the people of Springfield will not be satisfied in their hatred of Bart until he's dead (maybe), Marge finally has enough and marches out of the hospital to give them a Shaming the Mob speech, which thankfully works.
- Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: Lisa tries to cheer up Bart by having him meet Joe LaBoot, the worst baseball player of all time, who tells him this. This trope is then cruelly defied when LaBoot finds out who he's talking to and bullies him about missing that damned pop fly as well.
- Mooning: "Behold, my naked butt! Each cheek is a god to you!"
- Naked People Are Funny: Moe streaking on the field.
- Never My Fault: As soon as Moe shifts the hate onto Homer, the latter immediately passes the buck back to Bart to avoid further hazing.Homer: Hey get off my case! He's the choke artist!
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The announcer is a sound-alike of Vin Scully.
- No Longer with Us: Flanders, while wearing a black armband, tells the team to do it for Groundskeeper Willie — not because he's dead, but because he made the armband.
- Once Done, Never Forgotten: Bart misses a fly ball, losing his team the game, and is bullied until he attempts suicide. The professional baseball player Joe LaBoot is another example, as he is still bullied for being a terrible player despite having retired decades ago.
- Only Sane Woman: Marge is the only one to stand by Bart's side (excluding Lisa and Maggie, who didn't get involved at all).
- Overly Long Gag:
- Bart attempting 78 times to catch the ball during the restaging of the game. In fact, by the time Bart finally caught it, most of the spectators had left.
- Played for Drama with the town's treatment to Bart. Springfield being a land of extreme (and that is lynch-causing violent) sore losers had appeared on quick gags before, but this is an entire episode that showcased almost the whole town as villainous.
- Pet the Dog: Despite his Kick the Dog/Yank the Dog's Chain moment earlier in the episode, LaBoot tries to catch Bart after the latter jumps from a water tower. Unfortunately, he misses.
- Police Are Useless: Chief Wiggum doesn't arrive to the water tower to try to talk Bart out of apparently attempting suicide, but to encourage him to jump.
- Reality Ensues: A campaign of bullying as thoroughly (and absurdly) cruel as the one directed at Bart would make anybody snap or seek death in real life — just like it happened to Bart.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Marge calls out the entire town for their harassment towards her son.
- Shaming the Mob: Marge finally gets sick of the town's harassment of Bart and furiously chews them out for it after they drive him to a Bungled Suicide and still won't let up on their bullying, pointing out the sign that labels Springfield the "Meanest City in America" and how their actions prove it right. At that, the entire town gets the message and make up for their jerkassery by restaging the game so Bart can win.
- Sore Loser: The entire town are this. Bart fumbles the ball in the Little League Championships which causes Springfield to lose to Shelbyville. Springfield doesn't react well to this.
- Serious Business: Exaggerated regarding Minor League Baseball. Lose a game, and the town will bully someone to death. It also works the other way around as Bart could ask people to worship his butt with no consequences since the team was winning.
- The Sociopath: Joe LaBoot. He initially acts sympathetic towards Bart, but upon realizing who he is, he drops the act completely and remorselessly sends Bart into a depression.
- Suicide Dare: Chief Wiggum tells Bart to jump off the water tower.
- To the Tune of: "Bart Stinks" to "Love Stinks", courtesy of Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Everyone in Springfield goes into this, and Marge lets them all know it.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Up until the last play Bart had effectively carried the team all season and was the reason they'd made it to the championships in the first place. If Bart hadn't been there they wouldn't have gotten nearly as far, but all that's thrown out the window with the last play.
- Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Bart is an incredibly bad winner, at one point declaring himself a literal god the best of his team must worship because he's brought them this far in the championship. The Distant Finale of the episode also showcases that he will keep up bringing his win long into his old age. Could be worse, though: the scene also shows that the trauma of the original loss and everything that came afterwards makes him also fall into suicidal despair whenever he doubts himself long into his old age.
- Villain of the Week: LaBoot, for his Kick the Dog actions on Bart in the second act.
- The entire town of Springfield for driving Bart to suicide.
- Would Hurt a Child: Most of Springfield is willing to drive Bart to suicide.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Most of Springfield appears to be this. When Homer calls them out on bullying Bart, he is peer pressured into joining in, but when Marge does the same, everyone suddenly turns nice.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: When Bart meets LaBoot and sees that he had a similar ordeal like him, Bart feels happy knowing that theres one person who's not mad at him... until Lisa says his name.