If yesterday’s Super Bowl LVIII extravaganza — from the pregame to the broadcast to the game itself — left you a little cold, you were definitely watching the wrong broadcast. Sure, nothing changes the fact that the entire game consisted largely of trading field goals and then ended exactly how we knew it would all along, but I’m here to tell you that the right team in the booth can make all the difference. And I’m not talking about Jim Nantz and Tony Romo.
If you didn’t flip over to the Nickelodeon feed during the game, you have only yourself to blame. This isn’t the first time we’ve gotten a “kids” game over on Nick, but it was the best to date and most entertaining, thanks in large part to having the actors who voice Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star (Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke, respectively) in the booth with the more, uh, traditional announcing team of Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson.
The conceit of the entire broadcast is that the Super Bowl wasn’t taking place in Vegas, but Spongebob’s hometown of Bikini Bottom, and whoever was in charge of the graphics made sure you didn’t forget it. They kept the bubbles and floating jellyfish drifting lazily across the screen every now and then, often in particularly hilarious situations, like Andy Reid frantically chewing on his mustache while delightful sea creatures gently floated past. The entire broadcast kicked off with a rousing performance of the much-beloved “Sweet Victory,” and if you’ve never seen that episode of Spongebob, I’m not sure how to explain it to you other than that the rock anthem has become a musical juggernaut among Millennials and Gen Z — and often the Gen X parents who raised them.
Spongebob Squarepants is ostensibly for kids, but as with many of its contemporary shows (Fairly Oddparents, Chowder, Jimmy Neutron, Phinneas and Ferb) there’s plenty of subtext in there for adults, as well as outright deranged happenings from two sea creatures who aren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree yet are somehow left to wander Bikini Bottom unsupervised. That’s the energy Nick brought to the broadcast, which managed to straddle the line between being interesting and informative for kids while also keeping adults in stitches.
Kenny and Fagerbakke brought great “kid” questions to the stream, like “Are the players nervous?” and “How many more yards do they need for a first down?” And Eagle and Burleson, who were perfectly suited to their roles alongside a sea sponge and starfish, answered in clear, concise ways that were accessible to children. At one point, Burleson told kids in the audience to make sure to watch the clock to see how much time was left in the game, just like they watch the clock at the end of the school day. And throughout the game, Dora The Explorer popped up to explain things like “offsides” and “holding” in ways that were easily graspable for the littles — a tinier, cuter, more helpful Gene Steratore. Nick even explained field position to the kids, using a blue cartoon nautical rope for the line of scrimmage and a yellow pineapple line for the first down marker, making it easy for kids to transition to the adult broadcast — they already know what each colored line stands for.
But it was the moments where Eagle and Burleson just called the game in a way kids can understand, along with ongoing commentary from Spongebob and Patrick that made the broadcast what it was. When Eagle pointed out that Taylor Swift had probably bitten off all her fingernails in the last two minutes of OT, Spongebob nefariously suggested she sell them on Ebay. When a player got pushed backward for a loss, Spongebob and Patrick helpfully chimed in, “He’s not supposed to go that way, he’s going the wrong way! He’s going backwards!” On one of the fumbles, Patrick began reciting to the audience, “You have to firmly grip the ball!” After another play that ended in a pileup with the ballrunner at the bottom, Spongebob remarked, “The best day to wear a spiked helmet is every day.” When the big game went into OT for only the second time ever, Eagle and Burleson joined Patrick and Spongebob in changing the words to one of Spongebob’s most famous songs “Best Day Ever,” and the entire booth began singing “Second Time EVEEERRRRRR!” And that’s part of what makes the Nick broadcast work — both Eagle and Burleson are clearly familiar with the show and the culture around it, and are all-in from the beginning.
Spongebob and Patrick weren’t the only characters from Bikini Bottom to show up. I’m going to choose to believe that Sandy Cheeks was a sideline reporter because she’s a secondary character and not because she’s a woman, and by the second half she had completely abandoned any pretense of objectivity and was openly rooting for the Chiefs. Why? Of course because their quarterback was from Texas. Larry the Lobster kept posing for the camera and doing squats, in addition to wandering onto the field for a closer look during the second coin toss. Squidward spent the first three quarters in line for the bathroom. Celebrities like Dua Flipa and Shrimpothee Chalamet filled the stands. The entire thing was chaotic and unhinged and utterly delightful. I wish we got it every week, because it was a far sight more fun than listening to Tony Romo lose his voice by the end of the first quarter.
For the kids who were interested in the Super Bowl for the first time — maybe because their parents or older siblings were— and for the youngest Swifties watching solely for the Taylor Cam, the Nick broadcast was a pitch-perfect entry into the world of pro sports which, at the end of the day, are supposed to be fun. And in the midst of all the sports betting ads blanketing the adult broadcast, it was heartwarming to see a game be about just that — fun.
Of course, I’m not delusional. I know Paramount isn’t trying to explain football to kids out of the goodness of its heart or so that nuclear families can spend quality time together on Sunday afternoons huddled around the ole TV set together. They’re doing it for the advertising dollars and to turn every little Caitin and Liam out there into rabid NFL addicts, scrounging and scrapping for every ounce of NFL content between February and September like all the rest of us. And I doubt Eagle and Burleson would be up for doing the Nick game every week, and Kenny and Fegerbakke probably aren’t even available, but that is a broadcast I would kill to have available every week. And I would probably wind up feeling a lot better about the NFL, and society in general, if I did.
Original source here
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