NFL on Nick: Shockingly entertaining


Photo by James Birle

Screengrab of Instant replay of Saints touchdown from NFC Wild Card game on Jan. 10, featuring Nickelodeon’s “Next-Gen graphics.”

On Jan. 10, the New Orleans Saints hosted the Chicago Bears in the NFC Wildcard playoff matchup. Everything about this playoff game was strange: limited crowd due to COVID-19, the Bears were the first seven seed allowed to participate in NFL playoff history and it was broadcast on Nickelodeon. Why was it broadcast on Nickelodeon, you ask? We have no idea.

This game had everything. When a touchdown was scored, the end zone was filled with CGI slime; when there was a field goal, Spongebob’s face appeared between the uprights; when there was a flag on the play, Young Sheldon would appear on the screen and explain the penalty to the viewers. After big plays, replays would be shown in Minecraft-like square style graphics. This was the strangest sports broadcast we had ever seen.

We grew up watching both Nickelodeon and the NFL and never once thought to mix them. Why not? Because one is a network that airs comedic television shows for children and the other is a professional sports league.

Professional football is a dangerous and rough sport, but it’s not like airing a game on Nick is going to take away from the brutality of the sport. Besides, network broadcasts of the NFL and every sport for that matter are already family-friendly by design. There is no swearing or anything else that would be unacceptable on a kids’ show.

As it turns out, there was swearing on Nickelodeon’s broadcast, as Bears’ wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson dropped a clear F-bomb on air during the second quarter, which was professionally ignored by the commentator crew.

The game was supposed to conclude with the in-person sliming of the NVP (Nickelodeon Valuable Player) as voted by the fans online. However, because losing quarterback Mitchell Trubisky of the Bears won the fan vote and not a member of the Saints, the sliming was unfortunately skipped.

Among fans, Nickelodeon’s attempt to enter the world of sports has received mixed reviews. On one side, die-hard NFL fans viewed Nickelodeon’s broadcast of the game as a mockery of the sport. On the other side, children watching the game were thrilled to see their favorite cartoon characters pop up on the screen.

However, it’s safe to say that a vast majority of fans enjoyed Nickelodeon’s spin on the NFL. The bright colors and animations on the screen really livened up the game, and the facts about the game gave kids the opportunity to learn more about the sport of football.

Even if this is just a one-time event for Nickelodeon, which we hope it’s not, this was a clever way to expand the NFL to new and younger viewers. Nickelodeon was able to grab the attention of America’s youth by combining two different forms of entertainment to create a blockbuster viewing experience.