If you’re like me, the big game on Feb. 4 isn’t Super Bowl LII, but Puppy Bowl XIV. The good news this year is that there’s another new bowl game with four-legged players to watch, plus a Very Special Episode of the beloved TV series “This Is Us” that may involve a dog.
“Puppy Bowl XIV” — Animal Planet at 3 p.m. EST Sunday.
The 14th edition of Puppy Bowl will feature 90 players — the most in the show’s history. It will be held in a brand-new venue: the bone-shaped Geico stadium. Once again, there’s no real audience, but wouldn’t it be cool if they sold tickets to fans and donated the proceeds to animal rescue groups? Are you listening, Animal Planet?
To recruit the adoptable players, Animal Planet worked with 48 animal shelters and rescue organizations in 25 U.S. states and territories. What’s especially heartwarming this year is that most of the puppies vying for the “Lombarky” trophy are from areas that were devastated by hurricanes last year. For the first time ever, there will also be a player from Villalobos Rescue Center, featured on Animal Planet’s “Pit Bulls and Parolees” series.
Some special-needs puppers will be playing this year, including Ryder, a sight-impaired Husky; Chance, a deaf Dalmatian; Moonshine; a sight-impaired and deaf Border Collie; and Luna, a Pomeranian mix with a cleft palate.
As for other adorable animals, look for Shirley the rescue sloth, who’ll be making her debut as the assistant to returning “rufferee” Dan Schachner.
Check out the Animal Planet website for the complete Team Ruff and Team Fluff lineup.
“Puppy Bowl Presents: The Dog Bowl” — Animal Planet at 8 p.m. EST Saturday.
Sure, all those puppies are ridiculously adorable, but a not-so-cute fact is that older homeless dogs have a much rougher time getting adopted. With this in mind, Animal Planet is debuting “Puppy Bowl Presents: The Dog Bowl” this year, which will feature 50 adult dogs from 15 shelters in 11 states. Their ages range from 2 to 15 years old.
The players will be “going nose to nose for touchdowns, furry fumbles and ultimately the win,” according to Animal Planet. “After the game of tail tugs and ear pulls is over, they all end up winners as they find their forever homes.”
Like “Puppy Bowl,” there will be two teams: Team Wags and Team Tails. The one-hour special will also feature “Dogs Life” profiles of some of the players, as well as NFL player Eric Decker and Jessie James Decker, who run Deckers Dogs, a nonprofit that trains rescue dogs to be to be service dogs for disabled vets; NFL player and animal advocate Logan Ryan; Tia Torres from “Pit Bulls and Parolees”; and Steve Greig, aka @Wolfgang2242 on Instagram, who rescues and cares for senior dogs in need.
The good news is that most of the 50 players have already been adopted, according to USA Today. But hopefully they’ll inspire viewers to look for other older dogs that are still in need of forever homes.
“This Is Us” — NBC after the Super Bowl.
Spoiler alert: If you’ve never watched “This Is Us” but plan to one day, you might want to read no further.
For the rest of us, we know that this episode will finally reveal how Pearson family patriarch Jack died in a house fire. In the last episode that aired, we found out it was an old Crock-Pot that sparked the blaze, which was quickly spreading from the kitchen to the upstairs bedrooms as the episode ended.
Rebecca, Kate and Randall Pearson all survived the fire. (Kevin was away, spending the night at his girlfriend’s house.) So why did Jack die?
Here’s my guess: The family dog was sleeping downstairs. Maybe after everyone was safely out of the house, Kate begged her dad to go back inside and save him. And maybe that’s why, many years later, Kate didn’t want to adopt another dog, because it would stir up all those terrible memories. (Aren’t you glad she changed her mind? That little dog truly is as cute, as Kate said, as cute as Jason Tremblay.)
If that’s the case, Jack truly died a hero. No matter what happens, be sure to have a tissue box or two handy when you watch this episode. And thanks for nothing, NBC, for ending Super Bowl Sunday with a very sad bawlfest.
Photo: Puppy Bowl/Facebook