If yesterday’s Super Bowl LVIII extravaganza—from the pregame to the broadcast to the game itself—left you a little cold, you’re definitely watching the wrong broadcast. Of course, it doesn’t change the fact that the entire game consisted largely of trading field goals and then ended exactly as we knew it would all along, but I’m here to tell you that the right team in the standings can make all the difference. And I’m not talking about Jim Nantz and Tony Romo.
If you didn’t switch 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 about Nick, but it was the best yet and the most entertaining, thanks in large part to the actors who voiced Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star (Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke , respectively) in the booth with the more traditional announcing team of Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson.
The conceit of the whole broadcast is that the Super Bowl wasn’t in Vegas, it was in Spongebob’s hometown, Bikini Bottom, and whoever was responsible for the graphics made sure you didn’t forget it. They let the bubbles and floating jellyfish drift lazily across the screen every now and then, often in particularly hilarious situations, such as Andy Reid frantically chewing his mustache as delicious sea creatures floated gently by. The entire broadcast started with a spectacular performance by the much loved one “Sweet victory,‘and if you’ve never seen it that episode of SpongebobI’m not sure how to explain it to you, other than to say 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 like many of his contemporary shows (Fairly Oddparents, Chowder, Jimmy Neutron, Phinneas, and Ferb) there’s a lot of subtext for adults, as well as downright crazy happenings of two sea creatures who aren’t. The brightest lights on the tree yet are somehow found wandering around Bikini Bottom unattended. That’s the energy Nick brought to the broadcast, which managed to cross the line between interesting and informative for kids while 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 a starfish, responded in clear, concise ways that were accessible to children. At one point, Burleson told the children in the audience to watch the clock to see how much time was left in the game, just as they watch the clock at the end of the school day. And during the game, Dora The Explorer showed up to explain things like ‘offside’ and ‘hold’ in a way that was easy for the little ones to understand – a smaller, cuter and more helpful Gene Steratore. Nick even explained the 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 is. means.
But it was the moments where Eagle and Burleson simply mentioned the game in a way that kids can understand, along with Spongebob and Patrick’s ongoing commentary, 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 selling them on Ebay. When a player was pushed back for a loss, Spongebob and Patrick helpfully said, “He’s not supposed to go that way, he’s going the wrong way!” He’s going backwards!” During one of the fumbles, Patrick started telling the crowd, “You’ve got to grip the ball tight!” After another play that ended in a pileup with the ballrunner at the bottom, Spongebob commented, “The best day to wear a studded helmet is each day.” When the big game went to OT for the second time ever, Eagle and Burleson joined Patrick and Spongebob and turned the words into one of Spongebob’s most famous songs. “Best Day Ever,” and the whole booth started shouting “Second Time EVEEERRRRRR!” And that’s part of what makes the Nick broadcast so good: Both Eagle and Burleson are clearly familiar with the show and the culture around it, and are all in from the start.
Spongebob and Patrick weren’t the only characters from Bikini Bottom to make an appearance. 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 supporting the Chiefs. Why? Of course, because their quarterback was from Texas. Larry the Cancer continued to pose for the camera and do squats, and also walked onto the field for a closer look during the second toss. Squidward stood in line for the bathroom for the first 45 minutes. Celebrities like Dua Flipa and Shrimpothee Chalamet filled the stands. The whole thing was chaotic and unhinged and downright delightful. I wish we got it every week because it was way more fun than listening to Tony Romo lose his voice at the end of the first quarter.
For the kids who were interested in the Super Bowl for the first time — perhaps because their parents or older siblings were too — and for the youngest Swifties who watched exclusively on Taylor Cam, the Nick broadcast was a perfect entry point into the world of the pros. sports that should ultimately be fun. And amid all the sports betting ads covering the adult broadcasts, it was heartwarming to see a game that was 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 old TV set. They do it for the advertising dollars and to turn every little Caitin and Liam into rabid NFL addicts, who scream and scrap every ounce of NFL content between February and September, just like the rest of us. And I doubt Eagle and Burleson would be willing to do the Nick game every week, and Kenny and Fegerbakke probably aren’t even available, but that’s a broadcast I’d kill if I were available every week. And if I did, I’d probably feel a lot better about the NFL and society in general.