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Behind the Scenes at the Puppy Bowl

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Two days from now isn’t just Super Bowl Sunday — it’s also Puppy Bowl Sunday! (And Kitten Halftime Show Sunday, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so nicely.) The production is usually taped here in NYC in late October. I got to attend the taping back in 2011 and wrote an ESPN column about it. Since then, the Animal Planet folks have been nice enough to invite me back each year.

This year, I attended for two days — the kitten day and the puppy day (hence the two different shirts I’m wearing in the photos above). As usual, it was a total cute-gasm. So many adorable critters!

They shoot several hours’ worth of footage each day and then edit it down to the final product we’ll see on Sunday. It’s always a little weird on the set, because everyone has to remain quiet. The broadcasters’ narration, sound effects, and all the rest are added in post. Here are two segments of kitten action to give you an idea of what it’s like:

Puppy day is always a bit more involved, because there are certain sequences that have to be shot each year. For example, they have to get good footage of each puppy looking upward, so they can make it look like they’re looking up at the flag during the playing of the national anthem. That’s usually pretty funny to watch, although I wasn’t on the set for it this year.

I was on the set, however, for the “player introductions.” On Sunday, you’ll see the puppies trotting out onto the field through a haze of smoke. The way this works on the set is that they have a little entrance tunnel at one corner of the field. They use dry ice for smoke and send a puppy out through the tunnel. At the opposite corner of the field is a trainer named Victoria Schade, who uses treats and sweet talk to entice the puppies to trot over to her. A spotlight follows them as they trot — that trot, in slow motion, is what you see in the finished production. But most of the puppies take a sort of circuitous route from the tunnel to Victoria, as you can see in these clips:

When a puppy scores a touchdown, referee Dan Schachner has to come onto the field and make the official call. Sometimes that requires more than one take:

Dan also gets to announce the game’s MVP (Most Valuable Puppy). Since they don’t know who that’s going to turn out to be — it’s decided in post — they have him do announcements with several likely contenders:

All the cuteness aside, it’s important to remember that the Puppy Bowl is for a good cause. All the pups and kittens are from shelters and will be adopted, and Animal Planet does a good job of advocating for humane animal treatment. Can’t wait to go back next year!

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Kobe memorials, continued: Kobe tributes, continued: Another day, another assortment of uni-related Kobe Bryant memorials (thanks to all contributors):

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Super Bowl Preview reminder: In case you missed it on Wednesday, the annual Uni Watch Super Bowl Preview is now available over at InsideHook, and it’s a doozy. Enjoy!

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Click to enlarge

Hockey jersey reminder: We’re continuing to take orders over the next week and a half for the first-ever Uni Watch hockey jerseys. You can place your order here and get more info here.

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Sale reminders: Teespring is running one of its periodic 10%-off sales. From now through the end of Sunday, you can get a 10% discount on anything in the Uni Watch shop or the Naming Wrongs shop by using the checkout code SNOWFLAK3. So if you’ve been on the fence about the January Pin Club pin (or any of our other products), here’s a chance to save a little coin.

I’m matching this 10% discount on our Uni Watch hats. From now through Sunday, they are priced at $35.99, instead of our usual $39.99.

My thanks as always, for considering our products.

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Working Class Wannabes™: New Astros manager Dusty Baker said in his intruductory presser yesterday that the baseball clubhouse was “the shop. We’re the blue-collar guys who go out there and work in the shop [on the] ground floor” (from Gary Brain). … Back in 2007, UAB’s football team ran a commercial called “Green, Gold, and Blue Collar,” which among other things featured the team practicing in blue-collared jerseys (from @MorteReport).

Baseball News: New ’Stros manager Dusty Baker is going with JrOB. Has there ever been a manager who’s done that before? … The Twins’ navy alternate jersey will have a gold Nike logo (from Nathan Lucast). … The Red Sox’s spring/BP cap has made its way onto retail shelves (from Phil Pane). … Cleveland.com has a whole bunch of photos of the Tribe’s “truck day,” the day equipment is packed up and trucked down to the team’s spring training facility in Arizona (from Jason Hillyer). … The Kane County Cougars, Class-A affiliates of the Diamondbacks, have unveiled a rather nice 30th-season logo (from Steve Johnston).

NFL News: The Washington Post has an article about KC Wolf, the NFL’s oldest mascot, who’s going to his first Super Bowl (from Tom Turner). … Add The Philadelphia Inquirer to the chorus of voices calling for a return of unique Super Bowl logos (from @BigginsDE). … Blaise D’Sylva’s NFL division helmet history yesterday was for the NFC South.

Hockey News: Forty years ago yesterday, the Penguins wore black and gold for the first time. They released this awesome video on social media marking the occasion (from Jerry Wolper and Matt B.) … The developers of the Flames’ new arena are inviting the public to give comments on the design (from Kary Klismet). … The Manitoba Moose, AHL affiliates of the Jets, have unveiled the jersey they’ll wear for their 20th-Season Game on Feb. 7 (from Mike Chamernik).

Hoops News: Sixers SG Zhaire Smith has played in three games this season and has worn a different number for each of them: No. 8 last week, No. 7 on Tuesday and No. 5 last night. He initially switched from No. 8 in honor of Kobe Bryant. But three different numbers in three games — has that ever happened before? (From Jack Connell.) … Kentucky and Mizzou women went color-vs-color last night (from Josh Hinton). … Maryland and Iowa men went color vs. color in College Park (from Matt Shevin and Kary Klismet). … Tennessee Tech and Belmont men also went color vs. color last night.

Soccer News: New third kit for Mexican side Pumas (from Ed Żelaski). … Also from Ed: Detroit City, which plays in the new National Independent Soccer Association, will have an ad for a marijuana dispensary on their training kits, which may be the first such agreement in American — and perhaps world — professional sports history. … Sticking with the USL, Reading United have refreshed their logo (from multiple readers). … Back in 2012, AC Milan’s then-CEO Adriano Galliani declared the club’s beautiful third kits “cursed” after the team failed to win a match in them. Reminds me of another snakebitten kit. … New Manchester United signing Bruno Fernandes will wear No. 18, which had been worn for nearly a decade by Ashley Young until the latter’s departure a few weeks ago.

Grab Bag: Golfer Jon Rahm wore customized Pat Tillman shoes at the Phoenix Open yesterday. Both Rahm and Tillman went to ASU (from Jakob Fox). … Brad Iverson-Long noticed that the A’s, the Fresno Grizzlies and the San Jose Earthquakes all spent $5,000 to “sponsor” emojis. … NBC has images of every NASCAR Cup Series driver’s helmet for the 2020 season (from Patrick Lind). … A fictional university logo used in a Visa commercial looks nearly identical to Syracuse’s primary mark from the ’90s. … Angry Orchard, the apple cider brand — and my go-to alcoholic beverage at a sporting event, as I’m not much of a beer guy — sponsors a curling team in Canada. The kits aren’t bad! … The following are all from Kary Klismet: The Sturgis Journal out of Michigan has started a series of stories on local schools’ mascots. The first is about Sturgis High’s mascot, the Trojans. … Delta Airlines is introducing new uniforms, just two years after the old ones were introduced. There were numerous complaints about comfort from employees. … The Royal Astronomical Society has a new logo, its first since 1820. … There will soon be Team USA Oreos (from Timmy Donahue).

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My favorite team is in the big game this Sunday. That’s happened quite a few times before, of course — as recently as seven years ago, in fact — but for some reason I’m particularly excited this year, maybe because the team was so bad last season (4-12), so this season has seemed like it came out of nowhere.

We’re having a few people over at Uni Watch HQ on Sunday (and we’ll watch the Puppy Bowl at halftime, natch). My own rooting interests notwithstanding, it’s shaping up as a really good matchup. Whatever your plans are for Sunday, enjoy the game. Go Niners! — Paul

34 comments to Behind the Scenes at the Puppy Bowl

  • BvK1126 | January 31, 2020 at 9:03 am |

    Errata: the link for the Texas intramurals Ticker item is missing.

  • Nate Rathjen | January 31, 2020 at 9:05 am |

    Soccer ticker: “USL” is the organization that runs multiple leagues, so it is never the right way to refer to one league. Reading United is in the fourth-tier USL League Two (USL2). Detroit City isn’t even a USL team, it’s in the third-tier NISA!

    • Paul Lukas | January 31, 2020 at 9:06 am |

      Fixed.

    • ThePonchat | January 31, 2020 at 9:58 am |

      If we want to talk about “never the right way to refer…” then it is proper to NEVER refer to USL League Two as “fourth-tier” as there is no fourth-tier in US Soccer. There is only 3 tiers that are identified.

  • Brinke | January 31, 2020 at 9:29 am |

    Since PL said it first, I’ll echo those sentiments; off to work today in my old Reebok 49ers Jerry Rice “Throwbacks” series jersey. Go Niners!

  • AJ Kane | January 31, 2020 at 9:41 am |

    Those Red Sox BP hats are especially terrible.

    • Josh Claywell | January 31, 2020 at 4:12 pm |

      All of them this year are terrible.

      • Gary | January 31, 2020 at 7:40 pm |

        Are they all the primary or secondary logo embedded in the regular cap logo? I’ve only seen Toronto and now Boston. Hard pass!

  • Joe Werner | January 31, 2020 at 9:46 am |

    I like the new “trademarked” Ticker category!!! Way back in 1993, there was a new highway being built near my high school. Our football coach made arrangements for us to do a photo shoot on the construction site, posed on a couple pieces of heavy equipment, wearing hard hats, holding sledgehammers, and pretty much all the other cliches that go along with this theme. I think the caption on the posters they printed was something like “Building a Winning Tradition.” Alas, I wasn’t actually in the picture, because ironically enough, I had to WORK that day, and couldn’t get someone to trade shifts with me!

    • mike 2 | January 31, 2020 at 11:15 am |

      The only thing that would have made the working class cosplay more complete is if you’d been disciplined for missing fake work to go to real work.

  • Patrick in MI | January 31, 2020 at 9:54 am |

    Did any puppies kneel during the national anthem?

    • Block "O Canada" | January 31, 2020 at 10:35 am |

      Or take an 8 second pee break to remember Kobe Bryant?

      • Nestor Chylak | January 31, 2020 at 10:51 am |

        Dobie Bryant.

  • Justin | January 31, 2020 at 10:58 am |

    I was really hoping that those pics were from four different years and this post was going to be about how you just realized you wore the same shirt there twice, twice.

  • Brian Jud | January 31, 2020 at 11:00 am |

    My wife and I adopted a puppy from one of the shelters providing puppies for the Puppy Bowl. Everybody else should do the same!

  • Marcus Ramsey | January 31, 2020 at 11:07 am |

    Enjoy the Bowl, Paul!

    Have you ever posted a Super Bowl recipe? I love your recipes!

  • CW | January 31, 2020 at 11:42 am |

    All this blue collar talk got me to wondering – if athletes aren’t blue collar and they definitely aren’t white collar, then what are they? I was surprised to find many other color collar (heh) categories exist, but unfortunately the best match for “professional athlete” in Wikipedia was “Grey collar – workforce that is not classified in blue collar nor white collar”. That’s pretty boring to me. Has anyone heard of a better descriptor or shall we all coin a better one?

    • BvK1126 | January 31, 2020 at 11:50 am |

      Maybe we can take our cues from Nike and call them “Flywire Collar!” ;-)

      (I’ll show myself out now…)

    • a d | January 31, 2020 at 4:20 pm |

      “No collar”?

  • BvK1126 | January 31, 2020 at 11:47 am |

    That UAB football commercial is one of the most eye-roll inducing examples of class-based stolen valor (as Paul has called it) that I have ever seen! Does anyone know if the literal blue collars sewn onto the players’ practice jerseys were something that UAB actually wore in practice, or was that just a promotion or joke for the commercial? Because it would seem those floppy collars would actually be cumbersome and uncomfortable. If so, it could be argued that they would be an example of a team’s fixation on working-class mimicry having a detrimental effect on their preparation and performance.

  • Jerry Reuss | January 31, 2020 at 12:38 pm |

    After reading the article regarding the Indians packing the trucks with items needed for Spring Training, I’m curious as to why such items as laundry detergent and sunflower seeds aren’t sourced locally. There has to be more to the story.

  • Rydell | January 31, 2020 at 12:56 pm |

    I like the hard hat for the new blue collar section. Ha ha!

    Was it ever discovered the reasoning for Kobe Bryant to switch numbers?
    Was it a marketing strategy by the jersey makers to sell both and double up on the income??
    Or was it Kobe’s personal decision.?

    • Paul Lukas | January 31, 2020 at 2:36 pm |

      He said it was to create a “clean slate” after Shaq was traded from the Lakers.

  • Mark in Shiga | January 31, 2020 at 1:19 pm |

    Regarding But three different numbers in three games — has that ever happened before?

    How about Kurt Kreiger, the first major league baseball player to be born in Austria? He pitched in just three games, and seems to have worn the numbers 24, 30, and 42, according to Baseball Reference. Unless he switched jerseys in mid-game or something, he’s got the distinction of wearing three different numbers in the only three games he ever played in.

    I have no idea if anyone else has done this; this is just something I noticed when looking at his BR page.

    His “first player born in Austria” distinction also gets an asterisk, as that’s just for the Austria with today’s post-WWI borders. There were players born in Austria-Hungary before him.

    • Mark in Shiga | January 31, 2020 at 7:27 pm |

      Follow-up on Kurt Krieger: it seems like he really did have a different number in each of his games. He wore 24 in his debut on April 21, 1949, pitching the final inning of a 5-0 loss to Cincinnati, then was sent down.

      When he finally got back, he wore 30 in the game on 4/28/51 (mopping up pitching the last two innings of an 8-2 loss to the Cubs), and seems to have gone down to Rochester for a long while, during which Bob Scheffing was acquired and who took the number 30 jersey.

      So when Krieger got called back up and made his second and final appearance on September 11, he needed a different jersey, and got number 42 (the highest number the Cards gave out that year). He pitched the last two innings again –Scheffing pinch hit for him in the bottom of the ninth — but never made another appearance, and went back to the minors for a few more years before giving up on baseball at the young age of 27.

      Three games (all mopping up big losses and all separated by very long intervals), three jersey numbers.

      Surely someone else has four or five… anybody know?

  • Kevin | January 31, 2020 at 1:28 pm |

    I know it’s not MLB-level, but I know Pete Rose Jr. managed in the Low-A minor league and independent levels. I couldn’t find any pictures of him with “Rose Jr.” on his jersey, though.

  • RICKAZ | January 31, 2020 at 4:17 pm |

    “Tony Finau is wearing Kobe basketball shoes”….I’m not a very good golfer, but I thought it was important to wear spikes while golfing?

  • Tim | January 31, 2020 at 6:53 pm |

    Interesting story found on the US Patent and Trademark office website related to Ron Springs and Helmet Design

    https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/journeys-innovation/field-stories/coolest-award-i-have

    Springs has patents on certain elements of helmet design related to using padding from Child Seats as the basis for the development of helmet padding. Pretty interesting read

    • Tim | January 31, 2020 at 7:00 pm |

      Sorry…Shawn Springs. DOH!

  • walter | January 31, 2020 at 7:46 pm |

    I love seeing the Penguins in the first-year black+gold because it is one of the few examples of a hockey sweater with TV numbers on the shoulders and not the sleeves. The Panthers and Barons are the other members of that club, am I right?

    • Fred Teigen | February 1, 2020 at 4:37 am |

      The 1967-70 Oakland Seals had TV numbers on the shoulders.
      In the WHA, 1972-73 Alberta Oilers, 1973-74 Edmonton Oilers and 1975-76 Cleveland Crusaders all wore their TV numbers on the shoulders.

    • Fred Teigen | February 1, 2020 at 4:38 am |

      The 1967-70 Oakland Seals had TV numbers on the shoulders.
      In the WHA, 1972-73 Alberta Oilers, 1973-74 Edmonton Oilers and 1975-76 Cleveland Crusaders all wore their TV numbers on the shoulders.

  • Luke | January 31, 2020 at 10:31 pm |

    UAB went 2-10 the year that blue collar commercial came out, so I guess it didn’t really work out the way they were hoping.