It is, quite simply, the most anticipated competitive event of the year. It is a contest of skill, strategy, braun, and brains on a green field of play that draws the eyes of not just the nation, but the entire world. Some would go so far as to call this Sunday showdown a national holiday. And we’re not even talking about the extravagant halftime show.
And when it’s over, there’s a football game, too.
Of course we’re talking about Puppy Bowl XI! It’s back, and it’s back big!
The fixture of Super Bowl Sunday afternoon on Animal Planet is once again showcasing adorable and adoptable puppies vying for touchdowns and the hearts of all who watch them scamper across GEICO Field, while the kitties get their time to shine during halftime.
This year’s Puppy Bowl premieres on Sunday, Feb. 1, at 3 p.m. EST. The two-hour show then repeats throughout the rest of the day and night.
A record 13.5 million viewers watched Puppy Bowl X in 2014, making it the No. 1 telecast on cable that day. And why not, with features like the Bowl Cam, real-time tweets (written and otherwise) from sideline reporter “Meep the Bird,” controversial calls from returning referee Dan Schachner, and aerial shots provided by the hamster pilots of the Twizzlers bi-plane.
But, as always, the focus is on the field. And Puppy Bowl is taking it next-level in 2015. This year, the game is really a game as “Team Ruff” takes on “Team Fluff,” with competitive scoring introduced for the first time in Puppy Bowl history and tracked on a scoreboard. And, yes, you football purists, there will even be the opportunity to draft a puppy fantasy team.
And if the game really isn’t your thing, stay tuned for halftime. Katy Perry has another gig that Sunday, but “Katty Furry” will take center stage at the Puppy Bowl!
With goat cheerleaders urging them on, 55 puppies will compete for the Bissell Most Valuable Puppy award.
Fans can visit AnimalPlanet.com/PuppyBowl now to view the roster of pups and create a custom team in the second-annual Puppy Bowl Fantasy Game. Launching in mid-January, the all-new Puppy Bowl Pregame Show brings analysis and commentary to the big game from a team of very special sports correspondents.
On game day, fantasy leaguers can keep track of their teams’ stats via a live online leaderboard and are invited to vote in the Most Valuable Puppy poll, which goes live at kickoff. Everyone voting directly during the first three airings determines which player gets barking rights and the MVP award. Plus, the Adoption Tails digital series returns at 5 p.m., to follow a selection of pups that participated to their forever homes.
For the second year in a row, viewers also can share photos of themselves and their pets via Instagram using #PuppyBowl all Sunday for a chance to see themselves and their best friends on TV in real time.
All of the puppies and kittens featured in Puppy Bowl XI come from shelters and rescue groups across the United States and Puerto Rico. This year’s roster includes players from spcaLA (California), Green Dogs Unleashed (Virginia), Little Dog Rescue (Florida), Alamo Rescue Friends (Texas), Shih Tzus and Furbabies (Georgia) and Found A Hound Rescue (Illinois), among others.
Animal Care & Control of NYC provides kittens for the halftime show. Viewers interested in learning more about the organizations that participated in Puppy Bowl XI can visit AnimalPlanet.com/PuppyBowl for more information.
Now let’s meet the starting lineups! First up, is Team Ruff:
Falcor is a 14 1/2-week-old Clumber Spaniel with a crush on Miley Cyrus.
Boomer is a 17-week-old German Shepherd mix and champion chess player.
Lewis is a 12-week-old Shar-Pei who can name every state capital.
Titan is a 12-week-old American Bulldog mix who speaks fluent English, Spanish, and Japanese.
And here is Team Fluff!
Savannah is a 13-week-old Shih Tzu who thinks Lorde is overrated.
Chicklet is a 15-week-old Australian Shepherd mix who wants to visit all 50 states.
Drew Carey is a 12-week-old Cocker Spaniel who loves to bid $1 on the Price is Right.
Aaron is a 13-week-old Boxer trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
and last but not least … Pepper is a 14-week-old Shih Tzu/Terrier Mix who can’t wait for the new Star Wars movie!
Read about previous Puppy Bowls (and Super Bowls, too):
About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).