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Wish to enjoy Super Bowl Sunday celebrations, but skip the NFL game? Then tune into Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl! The idea to create a show that features puppies “playing” ball came about in 2005 when the programming team was brainstorming ways to attract viewers on Super Bowl Sunday. While filming the animals on a football field was initially suggested in jest, it resonated with the team. After all, who doesn't like watching cute puppies frolicking around?
It turns out they were right. The first Puppy Bowl, starring two teams of adorable dog “players” selected from rescue shelters across the country, attracted 5.6 million viewers over a 12-hour period. Now in its 13th year, the show draws over 12 million people and is one of the most-watched cable shows on Super Bowl Sunday.
To qualify for the Puppy Bowl, the dogs have to be between 12 and 21 weeks old. They also have to be well-socialized, vaccinated, and, due to the scaled-down size of the football field, meet certain height and weight restrictions. During the championship game, playful canines are let loose to tackle, bite, and fight for the toys and bones scattered around the small stadium. A touchdown is declared whenever a player manages to drag his/her toy to the end zone. Players are flagged by a human referee for “painter-fur-ence,” “unnecessary ruffness,” or relieving themselves on the field. Timeouts are declared each time the water bowl runs dry.
This year, the fun will begin at 2:00 p.m. (EST) with a pregame show featuring commentary from special sports correspondent “Rodt Weiler.” An hour later, legendary weather-predicting groundhog, Mr. Punxsutawney Phil, and two members of his inner circle will officiate the coin toss and declare the start of Puppy Bowl XIII between “Team Ruff’ and “Team Fluff.”
Though the starting lineup will comprise 39 dogs, a total of 78 adorable puppies from 34 rescue shelters across 22 states will have an opportunity to play. Among them will be three dogs with disabilities — Doobert (hearing-impaired), Lucky (three-legged), and Winston (sight and hearing-impaired). Dazzling routines by a team of rabbit and pig cheerleaders will help get fans into the spirit, while Meep, an African grey parrot, will analyze the game and also send out live tweet updates throughout the competition! The half-time show will feature the Chicago Rock Cats, headlined by Kitty Gaga purring her way through “Puparazzi.”
For the first time in the Puppy Bowl’s 13 year history, winners will walk away with more than just bragging — should we say wagging — rights? They will also receive the “Lombarky Trophy,” a large Petco-branded stuffed toy. To accommodate fans wishing to watch the NFL football game as well, Animal Planet plans to replay the two-hour broadcast numerous times during the day.
Besides providing entertainment, the adorable animals that participate in the Puppy Bowl are also available for adoption. Fans watching the show can view his/her profile on Animal Planet’s website and be instantly connected to the rescue center where he/she resides. According to the television channel, since the event is filmed and publicized over three months before Super Bowl Sunday, many of the dogs have already been spoken for, before the broadcast.
Not surprisingly, the show’s popularity has resulted in numerous copycats. Non-football fans now have the option of tuning into Hallmark Channel’s Kitty Bowl, National Geographic Wild’s Fish Bowl and debuting this year, Bunnie Bowl, which will be streamed live on the Facebook page of its sponsor, Annie’s Homegrown!
Resources: Vox.com, animalplanet.com