Letdowns

I’m Sorry, But We Really Need to Fix the Puppy Bowl

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puppy bowl game day

Let’s be clear: if anyone should be into the Puppy Bowl, it would be me. I am a person who has a different dog wallpaper on every one of my electronic devices, both personal and professional. I regularly cancel plans to do arts and crafts with and for my geriatric foster terrier, and I try real hard to only post Facebook pictures of her like once a week. I feel strongly that basically nothing is funnier than dogs doing people things, like wearing hoodies, or seeing psychologists. And I am a girl. Adorable puppies playing football should be my favorite thing in the world.

But it is not. My problem isn’t that the Puppy Bowl exists, because obviously, obviously, the Puppy Bowl should exist. My problem is that the Puppy Bowl is a tragically missed opportunity.

I get that there are a lot of good things about the Puppy Bowl. For example, the concept: the concept is stellar. A+ on the concept. Also, the Puppy Bowl helps a whole lot of shelter dogs find forever homes — all 66 competitors in this year’s game are rescues, and the ones who haven’t already been adopted will absolutely be gettin’ offers after game day, so A+ there, too.

My primary issue with the Puppy Bowl is the tone of the Puppy Bowl. Specifically, stop telling me that the puppies are cute. I get it. I have eyes. I know what a puppy is. But the commentary, which repeatedly announces that the dogs are “really freakin’ cute” and let’s check out the “cute cam” and oh, no, that Schnauzer-Beagle mix is totally getting an “excessive cuteness penalty,” is oppressive. It’s exhausting. Give the puppies some dignity. Give the puppies something to do. Or just shut up and let me watch the puppies.

My problem isn’t that the Puppy Bowl exists, because obviously, obviously, the Puppy Bowl should exist. My problem is that the Puppy Bowl is a tragically missed opportunity.

What I want is a literal football game, but with puppies. A football game does not feature announcers repeating over and over that the football players are very good at football, look at how good at football those extremely athletic athletes are. But that is exactly the level of commentary we get at the puppy bowl: two hours plus of variations on the announcement that we are watching cute puppies be cute. You know what is cute? Watching puppies in silence. You know what else would be cute? Watching puppies with literally any commentary other than canned cooing. You know what makes something absolutely not at all cute? When people tell you how cute it is. You show me, I’ll judge — that’s the pleasure of being human.

Instead of repeated cuteness announcements, which, again, I have eyes and please stop, please give me an actual game played by dogs on a fake football field. The Puppy Bowl has no game. You are Animal Planet. Impose a game. Really — just make up some kind of game. Any game. Something — give me something to grasp onto. The puppies are puppies and can’t change their behavior, but you can narrate it like it means something. I want it to mean something.

For example, impose some kind of scoring. Currently, the Puppy Bowl has no consistent scoring, and this is a fucking disaster. Score! How hard is this? The score can be 100 percent random — the score will absolutely be 100 percent random — but I want a real score. That would be hilarious. One thing about football? Everyone doesn’t win. That is, as far as I can tell, the main thing about football. Keep that. It’s good. It gives me something to latch onto. More importantly, it would be funny.

What is not funny, though, is Animal Planet’s lame attempt at making us “connect” with the puppies by assigning them apparently random personality traits. I end up with no sense of who’s who. Give me a sense of who’s who. Don’t give me some rando fact someone in some room made up and then arbitrarily assigned to that dog. “Loves to dress up on Halloween?” “Has a sailboat?” That’s not how this is done. You don’t give random facts about football players, so don’t give me random made-up facts about that Akita. Tell me something real and true, or make an actual joke.

You know what makes something absolutely not at all cute? When people tell you how cute it is. You show me, I’ll judge — that’s the pleasure of being human.

The puppies are chaotic enough, because they are puppies — that’s their job. As Animal Planet, it’s your job to impose some order. Do it. Maybe they should get numbered jerseys with their names? The only thing cuter than puppies running around is puppies running around in weird people clothes. I would like it if you did it with the actual seriousness of the real Super Bowl — again, contrast — but I’m open. What I am not open to is the status quo.

While we’re at it, let’s cut the non-puppy animals. This is the Puppy Bowl, not the Noah’s Ark Bowl. The pigs and the hamsters and the stupid tweeting parakeet and the hedgehogs are too much. You don’t need to prop this thing up with more cuteness. Puppies, as Animal Planet keeps reminding us, are real cute. Let it be. You don’t spice up a football game by adding figure skaters and gymnasts and curlers and a bobsled team. The Kitty Halftime Show can stay — I’m not a crazy person — but ditch the rest.

I mean, I get it. Pacing is hard. I appreciate the apparent desire to keep the Puppy Bowl spicy. But the solution isn’t a parade of non-puppies. The solution is to make that shit shorter. Pretty much everything should be shorter, always — the vast majority of movies, which, let it be said, generally feature people who are professionally engaging — even those could lose 20 minutes, no harm done. The puppy bowl is no exception. The puppy bowl should be one hour, with dignity, with a game, problem solved.

So this year, like last year, I’m bowing out. If you need me, I will be spending game day on my sofa, watching this video of a dog trying to catch a fish on an iPad over and over. It is only a minute long. That dog knows how it’s done.