Something very funny happened yesterday. A professional football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears was broadcast on CBS. That’s not the funny part. The funny part is that the game was also broadcast on Nickelodeon.
You remember Nickelodeon, right? If you’re around my age, you probably remember watching Doug, Rugrats, Double Dare, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Rocko’s Modern Life, and All That, among others. So, what was a playoff game doing on Nick? It turns out that the NFL had the idea to get kids more interested in football and teach them about the game. Pretty cool, right?
And, oh, boy, did Nickelodeon deliver. The broadcast was incredible. It featured Noah Eagles, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, and former NFL player Nate Burleson as the play-by-play and color commentating team, with Lex Lumpkin (seriously, that’s his name) reporting from the sidelines. Now, I didn’t know who Gabbie and Lex were at all before yesterday. Turns out Gabbie is on All That and is a child. Lex, also a child and also on All That, is what every sideline reporter should strive to be. Seriously. His energy was off the charts. It was great. And the broadcast team did a wonderful job commentating at a kid-friendly level, explaining what was going on, and just generally making it enjoyable for me to watch as a man in my 30s. Add to that the great infographics and CGI slime used to denote touchdowns, and overall it was an awesome broadcast.
And as great as that was, it got me thinking: what other sports network crossovers do we need?
Golf on the Discovery Network
We need this. We need nerds standing by to talk about the physics of Tiger’s swing, of Patrick Reed’s torque, and of Phil’s super toned legs. I know that they show a lot of physics stuff already. I’ve seen the graphics showing swing angle, launch speed, arc, and all sorts of other stuff, but I want more than that. I want deep dives. I want professors offering live interviews talking about how to optimize your swing for a given situation. The bottom third of the screen should just be numbers and other information. Muscle mass, body type, club selection, weather variables, ball placement, whatever. Bryson DeChambeau is a known nerd, so they can have him mic’d up, offering his immediate physical feedback. My wife already doesn’t understand why I watch golf, and this would confuse her even more, but I need it in my life.
Baseball on Bravo
I love baseball, but it does tend to have an awful lot of down time. They already fill these broadcasts with a lot of plenty of stupid crap like interviewing managers while the game is on, commenting on other news in the world of baseball, and panning through the crowd. It’s this last thing that is most compelling to me and a great reason to put baseball on Bravo. Picture this: Tim Gunn and the rest of the folks involved in Project Runway pan over the crowd and offer commentary on what fans are wearing? Does that San Diego Padres beer helmet clash with the University of San Diego hoodie? Or maybe there’re some folks there who came straight from work and are in professional garb that should be critiqued? Or maybe it’s retro uniform night and the White Sox are wearing their shorts uniforms? Hell, have ’em comment on whatever suit/tie combination Alex Rodriguez is wearing in the broadcast booth. This may get more fashion-conscious folks to tune into a weeknight game between the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
Hockey on HBO
A few years ago there was a show called Road to the Winter Classic that followed the two NHL teams playing in the annual outdoor game on New Years Day. It aired on HBO and was therefore uncensored. It was by watching this that I learned no athletes cuss as creatively as NHL players (a warning that the linked video contains NSFW language). I’m serious. Creativity in word choice, syntax, emphasis, pitch, tone, timbre, and meter. If there were formal awards for best cussing, the hockey players would take them all. I don’t know what’s going on in Canada to make all those dudes like that, but whatever it is is a world treasure. And apparently they teach it to the Europeans who play over here, too. Unbelievable levels of that famed Canadian hospitality. I just want more of that. I want to hear every possible combination of the seven dirty words (obviously, again, NSFW language). Frankly, I’d be happy if all sports offered this viewing experience. But since I’m trying to limit this to one sport per network, I’ll stick with hockey because they’re the best at it anyhow.
Horse Racing on Animal Planet
You can’t tell me it wouldn’t be great to have some equine expert from Kentucky analyze every single horse competing in the Kentucky Derby. And let ’em drink their mint juleps while they do it. But I love animals. I like horses a lot. I’d like to learn more about horses. I think this would also be great if one of those nerds from the golf commentary above could explain the physics of a horse to me, too, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Basketball on MTV
For starters, it seems like several former and current NBA players have also released rap albums. Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Ron Artest, Lonzo Ball, Dwight Howard, Aaron Gordon, and Damien Lillard have all released albums. Look it up. I’m too lazy to link them all here. So, you have the music part covered. Plus, MTV used to air Catfish, so they could follow Kevin Durant and figure out what fake accounts he’s using to promote himself. But where this really has potential is the manufactured drama of rich people made so famous by The Hills. MTV could have a bunch of footage taken of each team in the week prior to the game and sprinkle in the cleverly edited bits to make it look like there’s a huge feud or some other drama brewing. Plus, MTV has some experience producing sports content, most notably with Sal Masekela providing X-Games coverage. I think it could work. At the very least you’d probably get some great color commentary from the likes of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Drake, Meek Mill, and other musicians who are so loved by the network.
The Olympics on Food Network
Several things. First, Iron Chef America is as close to a sports show as a non-sports-show can get. Having the veteran voice of Alton Brown commenting on anything would be music to my ears. Second, this crossover has the best potential. Think about it. Those chefs love talking about fusion. Italian-Asian fusion. Swedish-Mexican fusion. Moroccan-French fusion. Everyone loves fusion. So what better event to discuss food fusion than an event featuring athletes from all over the world? There are hundred of cuisines represented at the Olympics. Oh, the fencing gold medal game is Korea versus Germany? Enjoy this recipe for kimchi schnitzel while you watch! What’s that? The Jamaican bobsled team just edged out the Ukraine? How about some jerk chicken borscht? I’m all for it. It combines my love of cooking with my love of Alton Brown and my love of sports.
Whatever the future of sports viewing holds, I hope there are many more creative combinations like NFL football and Nickelodeon. I tip my hat to the folks that made it happen, because it really was well done. And if it can work for football, who’s to say it can’t work for other sports as well?