It may be the only football game on television where players do not suffer concussions. But they sometimes take naps. And most of them are newly adopted.
I’m talking, of course, about the Puppy Bowl, which airs on Animal Planet at 3 p.m. on Feb. 7 – aka Super Bowl Sunday.
This is the 12th year the cable channel has unleashed two teams of puppies onto a fake football field. The 2016 roster of 86 canines, selected from animal shelters and rescue groups across the country, are divided into Team Ruff and Team Fluff.
For a thorough explanation of the rules of play, I turned to executive producer Melinda Toporoff: “[The puppies] are trying to drag toys into the goal lines for touchdowns,” she said. “Whether they realize they’ve done it or not, we don’t know, but we make a big deal of it.”
And even though Puppy Bowl XII was filmed in October, Toporoff would not divulge the winning team.
The 2016 edition introduces some new twists. Viewers can immerse themselves in the action at animalplanet.com via “Puppy Bowl Virtual Reality,” with a close-up, 360-degree view of scrimmages. A tortoise attempts to streak across the field, rescue chickens serve as cheerleaders and for the first time a Puppy Bowl Hall of Fame segment reunites viewers with favorite dogs from the past (with the goal of promoting adoption of older pooches and puppies in need of a home).
On behalf of my dear cat, Kitty, I asked about cat participation. The “Kitty Half-Time Show,” Toporoff said, features kittens “crawling on a set of San Francisco.” (That’s the city where the human Super Bowl will be played.) The punsters at Animal Planet have clearly been working overtime, because a news release notes that the landmarks these kittens will visit include “Al-Cat-Traz.”
Toporoff herself is pretty fast with animal wordplay. “There is another network that has – dare I say – made a copycat move,” she said. “They have something called ‘The Kitten Bowl.’ ”
That would be the Hallmark Channel. Its third installment of the cat competition airs the same day at noon.
Please forgive me, but all I can say is: Sunday will be a purr-fect storm for pet lovers.
Read more of Marc’s TV musings: