Footballs & Flaws: Happy Birthday Hey Arnold!

Nickelodeon was a staple of childhood that gave us cartoon classics like Hey Arnold! Plus The Fairly Odd Parents, SpongeBob SquarePants and many more. Among the greats is Hey Arnold!, a show we aren’t likely to forget and with an equally memorable lead character. Arnold Phillip Shortman (at least we’re pretty sure that’s his last name) is a nine-year-old dreamer, looking for the good in every situation. We like to think Arnold can find the good even in today’s darker times – so let’s celebrate Football Head’s birthday!

Arnold was born on October 7th. Though, his exact date of birth took a while to pinpoint, fans of Hey Arnold! noted the character was born on the 7th day of an unknown month in the episode “Married.” The series creator Craig Bartlett also let it slip that Arnold was a Libra, like himself, and thus we know Arnold’s birthday! Even Arnold’s last name, “Shortman,” took a while to confirm since it’s a running gag on the show for characters to get cut of just as they’re about to reveal it. We guess we should have listened when Grandpa called Arnold “short man” – it was right in front of all along!

Arnold is a smart, upbeat kind of kid who goes out of his way to help people in need. Arnold is also a man of many talents. His love of jazz led to Arnold teaching himself harmonica. He is technologically minded as his room is filled with cool contraptions, including a powerful computer, a collapsible couch, and a neat skylight. Arnold is also talented at athletics, playing baseball, and, ironically, football, and he’s also shown some skills in video editing.

We know that Arnold is a friend anyone would like to have. His friendship with Gerald was a strong as they come, even though the two would occasionally get into fights. Arnold and Gerald still had each other’s backs through the jungle of middle school through playground fights, bullies, and crushes.

Arnold’s love life has quite a few ups and downs. He has crushes on both Ruth and Lila, and here we glimpse some of his flaws. Arnold likes both the girls mostly because he thinks they’re pretty, not for who they are on the inside. It’s in Arnold’s relationship with Helga that we see something substantial begin to blossom. Sure, Helga isn’t exactly a shrinking violet – in fact, she’s loud, abrasive, and sometimes downright mean to Arnold. But boy, does she like him! We guess “move it Football Head!” is a term of endearment in Helga’s book. Though Arnold and Helga’s relationship doesn’t go anywhere in the series, we finally get to see the two become more than friends in the two Hey Arnold! movies.

Arnold may be a laidback guy, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get riled up sometimes. We can recall a certain fight with Harold where Arnold goes completely off the rails just to scare Harold – because, like Arnold said, “You should never hit a crazy person.” Arnold certainly has his flaws, in romance, friendships, and life in general. That’s what makes Arnold so relatable and what we like best about him is he owns up to his mistakes and apologizes when he needs to – even if it takes a nudge from Grandpa Phil to get him on the right path.

Arnold showed us what it meant to use the little opportunities we have every day to do the right thing, whether that’s stand up to some bullies or be a friend to someone in need. So, let’s be sure to wish a happy birthday to Football Head instead of telling him to “move it.”

Want more Hey Arnold?

Check out YEM’s exclusive interview with the cast of Hey Arn0ld: the Jungle Movie. Back in 2017!