This year, the Puppy Bowl has become an institution. Animal Planet's annual cute-overload counterprogramming to the Super Bowl has reached it milestone 10-year anniversary. And it's pulling out all the stops: Penguins! Keyboard Cat! A live Times Square experience! And it had better, because for the first time, the show has competition in the form of the copycat (heh) Kitten Bowl on the Hallmark Channel and a Fish Bowl on Nat Geo Wild.
So what can you expect from Sunday's big game? There will be puppies doing puppy things (playing, barking, chewing) in a football field-shaped box. The ref, Dan Schachner, will manage the chaos on the field by calling fouls for things like "excessive cuteness." And you will sit at home, squeeeeing your way through the broadcast, squeezing a pillow to provide an outlet for your cute aggression. Remember: No matter whom you root for, the puppies always win.
Prep for the big game with these 10 highlights:
The perma-kitten is one of the Internet-famous pets that emerged a few years after the Puppy Bowl got its start, and this year, she's a special guest on the show. Bub's appearance is caused by a genetic mutation, and one of its symptoms is that she's not able to keep her tongue in her mouth, much like a certain former Disney starlet. But her role will be to check in throughout the game with color commentary.
Last year's cheerleaders were some rather uninterested hedgehogs, so we'll see if this year's penguins can muster up some team spirit or if they'll just wander skittishly among the megaphones and giant ice cubes on the field.
In a new interactive feature from Animal Planet, you can draft puppies onto your fantasy all-star team. But honestly: True Puppy Bowl fans would draft all the puppies — who could bear to leave one out? This year, the puppies will be awarded points for activities like tackles and takeaways, not just touchdowns. So, inasmuch as there are Puppy Bowl rules — said the ref last year: "The only hard-and-fast rule is that the chew toy needs to be dragged into the end zone. That's it. It doesn't matter what direction. It doesn't matter how it's dragged there. It could even be by accident. That's a touchdown." — your fantasy team could triumph depending on how many times its members steal football-shaped chew toys from other pups.