Sunday, February 03, 2008

PUPPY BOWL IV: What, No Flea-Flicker?

That was probably the only football-related/canine-oriented pun which Harry Kalas DIDN'T use during his almost three hours of narration for this, the fourth edition of puppy playtime mayhem.

Oddly enough, despite some corny lines from the script which Animal Planet gave Kalas (along with his own improvisation, we reckon) ... and notwithstanding some unusual questionable choices for the music soundtrack and the slightly-uneven deployment of fake crowd noise (not to mention our referee -- a.k.a. "SuperDork" -- stopping play by calling "Time OUST!"), most of America will be nodding in agreement that Puppy Bowl IV was our best Puppy Bowl to date, flea-flicker or no.

Still, it pains us to ask the obvious question after hearing David Duchovny's voice during any of those approximately 837 Pedigree Adoption Drive commercials:
"Did Echo find a loving home?"
(Said the Mrs.: "Echo's dead.")

The Mrs. might've been confusing Echo for one of the pit bulls at the Vick Compound in Virginia.

Nevertheless, Echo has a face that would melt the coldest and unyieldingest of hearts -- although the Mrs. was practically breathless with the cute-n'-cuddlyness of those three Corgis, particularly the Corgi named "Cornelius" who was playin' watchdog by the water dish at the 5-yard line ... offering a "back off, Jack!" bark every time that the black-hooded, pesky-and-perky Parson terrier (a variation on the popular "Jack Russell" terrier) Abigail encroached.

That might've been the only other major qualm with today's 4-legged showcase -- that Abigail ran off with the Most Valuable Puppy award in the on-line voting.

Abigail was an attention-getter, no doubt, albeit, quite possibly, for all the wrong reasons.
It was reminiscent of last year when Indianapolis Colt center Jeff Saturday played the best game and his Super Bowl XLI MVP award was mistakenly given to the more-popular Peyton Manning.

While Abigail had a lot going for her, she did not remain within herself and did not allow the game to come to her.
Her sprints were random and frenetic ... she was out of position more than once ... and all of that splashing at the water dish was completely unnecessary, not to mention psychotic.

Abigail gave all the appearances that she hadn't received much coaching, taking the element of "wreckless abandon" a little too far.

Not unlike a puppy version of Bill Romanowski.

Oftentimes, Abigail would grab a toy (although, admittedly, America laughed every time she picked up the toy referee) and dart about the field ... as though she'd been fed a lot of amphetamines (or puppy uppers).

It was as if she'd sneaked into Bill Romanowski's stash of pills.

Anyway, the smarter MVP vote would've been for Attucker the beagle, despite the silly name.
Attucker played under control, carried out his assignments and, overall, exhibited smarter, more-disciplined play (usually while rolling around on the Puppy Bowl logo at midfield and wrestling with one of those feisty Beagle/Pinscher mixes).

Overall, what we saw out there today during the initial broadcast (and/or during the replays at 6:00, 9:00 and midnight -- hell, yes, some of us watched it more than once ...) was several quality one-on-one skirmishes and no mention of Cover 2 -- a defensive philosophy which nobody really understands or explains very well.

And, if America was impressed by the intensity and focus of Bingo and Daisy, it should be pointed that that they are two Amstaff/Ambulls (American Staffordshire terrier/American pit bull mixes) from the same litter, though they didn't look much like brother and sister.

Even so, both had plenty of upside.

Regrettably, Bruin -- the 14-week-old, 44-lb. Malamute -- did not receive nearly enough playing time.
Ditto for Colt, the Bernese mountain dog, and Dixie, the Golden.
Bruin had a real Refrigerator Perry quality about him ... massive, yet fun-loving (although maybe possessing a higher I.Q. than the Fridge).

There's no escaping the inescapable truth: Any time there's a dozen or so pups inside a designated play area, the spectators win.
This is in direct conflict with the evil act of putting two pit bulls into a ring and wagering on the outcome.

Hence, what happens in these Puppy Bowls -- which coincides nicely with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show which takes place the following week -- creates a positive vibe about dogs and responsible dog ownership.

America has gone through a brutal stretch since Puppy Bowl III, watching footage of pit bulls (when ESPN decided to exploit it) fighting 'til one dog was crippled or near death.
The details of what happened to those once-sweet pups before they arrived at the ring and after they exited the ring was almost as barbaric as what transpired inside the ring.

For those of us who, unlike our spouses, believe that Echo ISN'T dead, we were hoping to see Mike Vick serve his sentence inside a cinderblock cage with no toilet, so that he could eat his meals each day next to his puddles of urine and piles of feces.

Again ... that's a cinderblock cage with no toilet.
And no squeaky football toy ...

Thankfully, the Puppy Bowl was invented to stimulate our propensity for being pro-puppy -- although, we must confess that after spending three hours observing these wee pups, we feel as though we could improve the game ... y'know, such as eliminating the kitty-cat halftime and maybe granting eligibility for coyote pups which lack the resources to organize their own coyote leagues.

As puppy-lovin' know-it-alls, we've been known to second-guess the Rules Committee, protesting mildly when we see what we did today -- an orange-and-yellow, squeaky-toy porcupine on the field.
Initially, we found ourselves getting indignant and stating emphatically that there was no place in football for squeaky porcupines.
That is, until we saw how many pups ran right to the toy and enjoyed a hearty session of gnawing.

Son of a bitch ... the orange-and-yellow, squeaky porcupine earned its keep.
It should remain a fixture.

As the adorability and tummy-rubability grows each year, it's easy -- particularly when you live roughly 15 miles from the Animal Planet headquarters/stadium in Silver Spring -- to get all sentimental and promise the Mrs. that next year "we're gettin' tickets for the game!"
That is, until you realize that the only "fans" in attendance are faceless people painted on the walls.

OK ... then how did Bingo and his sister Daisy get to the stadium?
Summm-buddd-deee had to drive them ...

Anyway, the 5 1/2-year-old Golden -- Colonel Ka-Duffy -- who calls the shots at Planet Haystack ignores this Animal Planet showcase event each year because, as he's hinted, without actually saying it, that the game nowadays has changed on so many levels.
Which is why he interrupts our viewing by grabbing either his fuzzy hedgehog or the football w/ the tennis-ball-like, fuzzy shell and banging it up against Mommy or Daddy's leg.

Time for tug.

Actually, The Colonel might enjoy teasing Echo with the fuzzy football.
If only we knew if Echo was still alive (the Mrs. insists that he isn't ... what say you, Duchovny?).

To recap, Harry Kalas was a good sport to add his Hall of Fame voice to the event. He was given many more lines than in the previous three Puppy Bowls and we're certain that he was paid in either Milkbones or Marlboros, though we're not sure which).

Sadly, we have nowhere to turn for quality, game-related announcing for the next month (until the Big Dance arrives) -- and ESPN is attempting to be real coy about its surprise party for America by NOT disclosing in the promos for UNC-Duke three days from now that the primetime game will mark the return of Mega-Egghead Dick Vitale and his tired list of cliches.

There's a great many Americans whose reaction to this development was best demonstrated by what the lab-mix with the white racing stripe down her snout ("Mrs. Roper," they call her) did approx. 31 minutes before the end of Puppy Bowl IV.

Mrs. Roper squatted and plopped a little poopy on the 38-yard line.

Good call, you little bitch ... good call.

We'll second that motion on Weds. nite ...

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