This Sunday marks the return of an annual proving ground in American sports. A field of elite players who have scratched and clawed their way to a champion's game, watched and cheered on by millions as the teams unite for one final push toward greatness.
That's right, sports fans, it's time for Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl IX", a fierce competition for cuteness featuring random defecation, tail wagging, and puppies trying to eat things larger than their mouths,
For his part, referee Dan Schachner is ready, this being the second big game he has called for the network. With experience under his belt, Schachner reminisced in a recent interview with TV Guide about the process behind getting such an adorably responsible job. "[In my audition tape], I showed myself doing everything that a ref could possibly do to prepare for the big game. So, I drove out to my sister’s house on Long Island, she has a bunch of dogs, and did scrimmages in the backyard with the puppies, and showed what it would be like if I was actually trying to train dogs to prep for the big game," Schachner said. "I showed me dealing with my own pets and trying to scrimmage with my two little boys. It was probably overkill, but I wanted to leave nothing to chance. I wanted this job."
Schachner stresses that the shoot is a marathon of cuteness, not a sprint, stretching over two very full days of fur, adorable yelps, and puppies falling over each other in comedic fashion. "One day is devoted to the kitten halftime show and the promos and opens and closes that we do, but the other full day is devoted to the Puppy Bowl itself. That’s a full-day of shooting, 10 or 12 hours, to create a two-hour show," he said. "So for me, I have to be alert that entire time on so many levels. It’s not just one set of puppies that come in, it’s several sets of puppies that are rotated in and out of that playing field. I’m the only constant on the field. It sounds funny, but I make sure I get lots of sleep, that I eat well, that I’m healthy. [Laughs] I also do look at past game footage. I look at past moves, and things that we’ve allowed in the past, and what we’re not going to allow this year. I talk to the director who’s in the control room about the types of fouls that we’re going to call and how we’re gonna run the day."
His role as referee is one that Schachner takes very seriously, knowing full well that penalties can't be called willy-nilly, such as with the controversial and subjective 'Excessive Cuteness' penalty. "The way I look at it, it’s always got to be a multiple situation — it’s never one dog that can get penalized for being excessively cute. That would just blow up his ego way too big," Schachner opined. "It’s got to be several dogs, usually three or more, doing something unbelievably cute, which I define as cuddling or doing that thing where dogs rub their noses together. It’s got to be that level of cuteness."
I want this job. I think it's safe to say that any dog lover does. Don't miss "Puppy Bowl IX", which airs the same time as some other popular game Sunday on Animal Planet!