Nickelodeon broadcast of Bears-Saints wild-card game will be like nothing you’ve seen
Nick star Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, 15, who will join play-by-play voice Noah Eagle and analyst Nate Burleson in the booth, described it succinctly: “It’s gonna be Nick-ified.”
I couldn’t tell you exactly when cable TV arrived at my childhood home in the mid-1980s, but I can tell you exactly what I watched.
WTBS for Braves games, WOR for Mets games, MTV for music videos — and Nickelodeon for fun.
So when I saw the Bears-Saints wild-card game Sunday was chosen to air on Nick as a complement to the CBS broadcast, I was struck by a wave of nostalgia and green slime.
The variety show ‘‘You Can’t Do That on Television’’ introduced me to the gooey stuff. The game show ‘‘Double Dare’’ doubled down on making a mess with its obstacle course. The cartoon ‘‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’’ cracked me up. (I do a dead-on impression of Ren, by the way.)
Now an NFL game will appear on Nick, and it won’t look like anything you’ve seen.
Real-time animations, appearances from the network’s characters and, of course, virtual slime.
Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, of Nick’s sketch show ‘‘All That’’ and game show ‘‘Unfiltered,’’ will be in the booth. She described the broadcast succinctly: ‘‘It’s gonna be Nick-ified.’’
Professionals will call the game with Green, 15. Noah Eagle, the Clippers’ radio voice and 24-year-old son of broadcaster Ian Eagle, will have the play-by-play, and former receiver Nate Burleson, of CBS Sports and NFL Network, will provide analysis. Another Nick star, Lex Lumpkin, will serve as the reporter.
The point of the broadcast is simple: to promote the league and the game to a young audience. So it made sense that CBS, which is producing the game in association with Nickelodeon (whose parent is ViacomCBS), reached out to Eagle to gauge his interest in calling it. A longtime Nick viewer himself, Eagle jumped at the chance.
‘‘This was something that really catered to my interests,’’ he said. ‘‘When I’m calling Clipper games, I like to blend and blur the lines between sports, entertainment, pop culture, TV, movies, music, etc. So to have something that is literally built for that, I guess you could say I’m built for this. I’m excited for it.’’
Eagle rattled off the Nick shows he used to watch as though he had just watched them.
‘‘I never get to say, ‘Back in my day.’ I’m usually the young guy,’’ he said. ‘‘Well, back in my day, I watched ‘Drake & Josh’ a lot, ‘iCarly,’ ‘Zoey 101,’ ‘SpongeBob,’ ‘Fairly OddParents,’ ‘Jimmy Neutron.’ Before that, the original ‘All That,’ ‘The Amanda Show,’ ‘Double Dare.’ I was so excited when I heard Gabby and Lex are on this reboot of ‘All That’ because I loved the show growing up.’’
This won’t be Green’s first go-round with the NFL. She appeared at Super Bowl media night last season and said she’s hoping to reach a specific audience.
‘‘I’m really hoping to inspire young girls and just let them know that they can do whatever they set their minds to because this is unique,’’ she said. ‘‘You don’t normally see women up in the booth with the guys. So I’m honored, in that sense, to be a part of this.
‘‘I’m gonna be there cracking jokes, asking questions that people at home may have and also having a blast. That’s really the main focus of this broadcast, and I feel like people at home are gonna feel that, as well.’’
Eagle knows he can’t stray too far into the weeds of football jargon, given the audience.
‘‘I’m not gonna be telling 11-year-olds that [Saints tight end] Jared Cook high-pointed the football,’’ Eagle said. ‘‘At the same time, I know that part of the audience is going to be experienced football fans. But we do need to include all of those who are watching early in their football fandom, and the goal here is to welcome in a new audience of fans.’’
As for the game, Eagle wonders how long a leash Bears coach Matt Nagy will give quarterback Mitch Trubisky, given Nick Foles’ playoff history. He thinks the key for the Bears will be controlling possession.
‘‘Can David Montgomery run effectively enough so that you keep that Saints offense off the field long enough to give yourself a chance to win?’’ Eagle said. ‘‘And I think it’s very, very possible for Chicago to do exactly that.’’
As huge underdogs (I’ve seen the line as big as 10.5), the Bears face long odds of doing that. Might as well watch the game through a child’s eyes and enjoy the show.
Nickelodeon’s coverage begins at 3 p.m. with ‘‘The SpongeBob SportsPants Countdown Special,’’ hosted by Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, who will call the game for CBS, will appear. SpongeBob also will be featured during the halftime show because, well, he’s SpongeBob!
• ESPN is giving the Ravens-Titans game at noon Sunday its MegaCast treatment, the first time it has done so for an NFL game. Six networks (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, Freeform, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+) will provide various forms of coverage. I recommend checking out the Film Room on ESPN2.
• NBC Sports Chicago will air its ‘‘Blackhawks Season Preview Special’’ at 6 p.m. Tuesday with host Pat Boyle and analysts Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers. The network also will air pregame and postgame shows surrounding the nationally televised regular-season opener Wednesday. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.