If yesterday’s Super Bowl LVIII spectacle (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 exchanging field goals and then ended exactly how we knew it would, 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 switch to the Nickelodeon stream during the game, you only have yourself to blame. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a “kids” game featuring Nick, but it was the best one yet and the most entertaining, thanks in large part to having the voice actors for SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star (Tom Kenny). and Bill Fagerbakke, respectively) in the booth with the more traditional announce team of Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson.
The conceit of the entire broadcast is that the Super Bowl wasn’t taking place in Las Vegas, but in SpongeBob’s hometown of Bikini Bottom, and whoever was in charge of the graphics made sure you wouldn’t forget that. They kept bubbles and floating jellyfish floating lazily across the screen from time to time, often in particularly funny situations, such as Andy Reid frantically biting his mustache as delicious sea creatures gently floated by. The entire broadcast began with an exciting performance by the much-loved “Sweet victory,“and if you’ve never seen that episode of spongebobI’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 among the Gen X parents who raised them.
SpongeBob SquarePants is ostensibly for kids, but as with many of his contemporary shows (Odd Parents, Chowder, Jimmy Neutron, Phinneas and Ferb), there’s plenty of adult subtext, as well as completely unhinged events of two sea creatures who aren’t SpongeBob SquarePants. the brightest bulbs on the tree and are somehow left to wander around Bikini Bottom unsupervised. That’s the energy Nick brought to the broadcast, which managed to walk the line between being interesting and informative for kids while also keeping adults in suspense.
Kenny and Fagerbakke brought big “kid” questions to the broadcast, like “Are the players nervous?” and “How many more yards do they need for a first down?” And Eagle and Burleson, perfectly suited to their roles alongside a sea sponge and a starfish, responded in a clear and concise way that was accessible to children. At one point, Burleson told the kids in the audience to be sure to look at the clock to see how much time was left in the game, just like they do at the end of the school day. And throughout the game, Dora the Explorer appeared to explain things like “offside” and “hold” in ways that were easily understood by little ones: a smaller, cuter, more useful Gene Steratore. Nick even explained field position to the kids, using a cartoon blue nautical rope for the line of scrimmage and a yellow pineapple line for the first down marker, making it easy for the kids to transition to the broadcast for adults: you already know what each color line is. It represents.
But it was the moments where Eagle and Burleson simply called the game in a way that kids could understand, along with SpongeBob and Patrick’s running commentary, that made the broadcast what it was. When Eagle pointed out that Taylor Swift had probably bitten off all of her nails in the last two minutes of OT, SpongeBob nefariously suggested that she sell them on Ebay. When a player was pushed back by a loss, SpongeBob and Patrick helpfully intervened: “He’s not supposed to go that way, he’s going the wrong way! She’s backing away! On one of the fumbles, Patrick began reciting to the audience, “You have to hold the ball tight!” After another play that ended in a collision with the ball runner at the bottom, SpongeBob commented, “The best day to wear a spiked helmet is each day.” When the big game went into overtime for the second time, Eagle and Burleson joined Patrick and SpongeBob to change the lyrics to one of SpongeBob’s most famous songs. “The best day,” and the entire booth started chanting “Second Time EVEEERRRRRR!” And that’s part of what makes Nick’s broadcast work: Both Eagle and Burleson are clearly familiar with the show and the culture surrounding it, and they’re involved from the beginning.
SpongeBob and Patrick weren’t the only Bikini Bottom characters to appear. I’m going to choose to believe that Sandy Cheeks was a sideline reporter because she’s a sideline 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. Because? Of course, because her quarterback was from Texas. Larry the Lobster continued posing for the camera and doing squats, as well as strolling around the field to get a closer look during the second coin toss. Squidward spent the first three quarters standing in line for the bathroom. Celebrities like Dua Flipa and Shrimpothee Chalamet filled the stands. It was all chaotic, unhinged and absolutely charming. I wish we had it every week, because it was a lot more fun than listening to Tony Romo lose his voice at the end of the first quarter.
For kids who were interested in the Super Bowl for the first time (perhaps because their parents or older siblings were) and for younger Swifties watching solely on Taylor Cam, Nick’s broadcast was a perfect entry into the world. of professional football. sports that, after all, are supposed to be fun. And amidst all the sports betting ads covering the adult broadcast, it was refreshing to see that a game had just that: fun.
Of course, I’m not fooled. I know Paramount isn’t trying to explain football to kids out of the goodness of their hearts or so nuclear families can spend quality time together on Sunday afternoons curled up in front of the old TV. They’re doing it for the advertising money and to turn all the little Caitin and Liam into rabid NFL addicts, begging and discarding every ounce of NFL content between February and September like the rest of us. And I doubt Eagle and Burleson will be willing to do Nick’s game every week, and Kenny and Fegerbakke probably won’t even be available, but that’s a broadcast I’d kill to have available every week. And I’d probably end up feeling a lot better about the NFL, and society in general, if I did.