Day 115: Let The Kids Watch
I haven’t even started this yet and I already regret the title. It reeks of kid waking up in the middle of the night vibes. I can assure you it’s nothing like that, but moreso a spin on MLB’s current flagship slogan, “Let The Kids Play”. Which also sounds perverted. Whatever. It’s called, “Let The Kids Watch” and I’m sticking to it.
I watched football last weekend. I know, it feels as weird as it is to read it. That’s not to say that I took in a full game, but I probably watched an equivalent of 4 quarters. I still haven’t decided if it’s a sign that I’m willing to embrace the sport again or if I was just really bored. Neither would surprise me, I’m extremely fickle and uninspired. There were some true moments of shock over the weekend. While I was ecstatic to see the Browns go 28-0 in the first quarter, the biggest surprise had nothing to do with gameplay. At this point, what I’m about to say is not news to you. But let’s just pretend for a moment that I’m about to tell you something you’ve never heard before.
For the Saints-Bears game, instead of hearing Jim Nantz and Tony Romo guffaw about footbaw, we had the option to listen to…kids and young adults? Instead of rolling our eyes at a glitchy FoxBot during a touchdown, we were treated to…CGI Slime Cannons? Instead of seeing a boring net between the uprights, it was replaced by…Spongebob? That’s right, folks. For some reason, the NFC Wild Card Game had a simulcast…on Nickelodeon.
To the everyday fan, this might seem obnoxious and completely unnecessary. But what they’re really doing is an effective outreach unlike anything we’ve seen before. Because let’s face it, football may be a juggernaut, but it’s dying. Parents are less willing to let their kids play and likewise, their attention spans aren’t a good fit for the sports chess-like nature. For a live game, the presentation has been engineered to work on the kids level and try to make it interesting for them. Even though I feel like the sport deserves to crash, burn, die a slow death go straight to hell and not collect $200, I applaud them for trying. It was a damn good effort and hopefully the concept will stick around.
I was 7 years old when the 1994 season was about to start. It was also the first year of NFL on Fox. In preparation, the NFL teamed with Fox to make a Saturday Morning show for kids. It was called Grunt & Punt, hosted by animated pig/warthog parodies of John Madden and Pat Summerall. It was more of a variety sports show that had bloopers, kid-friendly player profiles, strange rule explanations and a few catchy songs.
The show was so unsuccessful that the information stops there. There is no IMDB page for it and Wikipedia only mentions it when listing the various programs on Fox in 1994. I have no idea who was involved with the show or how many episodes ran. That seems almost impossible in 2021, but here we are. For all intents and purposes, the show was a figment of my imagination. One that I had on tape and watched every fucking day (once again, to my sisters chagrin). My point is that I used that show as a launching pad for my football fandom. Some of the players became recognizable, Mr Football helped me memorize the team names and I learned a few things to attempt to impress my Dad with (it didn’t).
In short, the NFL took its time to reach out to me and I listened. That same year, what did MLB decide to do? They went on fucking strike. Guess who waited 17 more years to become a baseball fan? The kid who didn’t have any baseball to watch when he wanted to learn about all the sports. It me.
Fast forward to now and the NFL is desperately trying again. The ball is now proverbially and physically in Rob Manfred’s court. They now have a platform in place to reach out to more kids. Let’s be realistic: MLB on Nickelodeon would be amazing. They could add a whole bunch of bells and whistles to make the game more aesthetically appealing to kids and bored adults. Put some flames on a fastball. Make the entire stadium go apeshit for a home run. Have the announcers break the game down in a way they can understand. Focus on matchups and rivalries to teach the game instead of narrating it as if it were exclusive knowledge. Replace Carlos Correa with Squidward. All the time. Like never show his face ever again. If there’s any sport that could benefit from Nickelodeon, it’s baseball.
Major League Baseball is at a crucial crossroads. The influx of young blood has made the game more fun for everybody. The “Not In My Yard”crocodiles that thump their unwritten rule book are becoming extinct. The game is primed for the youth to be excited about it. The players want to entertain, they’re ready to entertain. All they need to do is tweak the presentation.
Because at the end of the day, who wouldn’t want to see Pete Alonso get slimed after a walkoff?
I rest my case.