Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Nate Burleson: What fans should expect for inaugural Christmas Day game on Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon's bringing the slime to the NFL Nickmas Game, and to celebrate, CBS Mornings' host Nate Burleson shares what fans should expect for inaugural Christmas Day game on Nickelodeon between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams! Find out on NFL.com! The NFL Nickmas game airs on Nickelodeon at 4:30 ET on Christmas Day! Click HERE for more info!

Watch NFL Slimetime Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon!

Dylan Gilmer on the "NFL Nickmas Game" | CBS Mornings

Actor, host and rapper Dylan Gilmer joins "CBS Mornings" to discuss his exciting new gig as a sideline reporter for this year's "NFL Nickmas Game" alongside Nate Burleson on Nickelodeon. He'll also discuss the third season of Tyler Perry's "Young Dylan," hosting "The Kids Tonight Show," and releasing new music.

'NFL Nickmas Game': Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Young Dylan Bringing 'Energy' on Christmas Day Broadcast (Exclusive)

Nickelodeon Stars Gabrielle Navaeh Green and Young Dylan return to the football field to all the Nickelodeon NFL Nickmas Game on Christmas Day. And while the two have called NFL games for Nickelodeon before, the Christmas Day game between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams will be different because this will be Nickelodeon's first regular season game after broadcasting playoff games the last two seasons. PopCulture.com spoke exclusively to Green and Dylan, and they explained how this Nickelodeon NFL game will stand out from the previous two. 

"So of course, this one is on Christmas, so you've got that Christmas spirit, Christmas energy, and also we have visual effects," Green, who will be in the booth with Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson, exclusively told PopCulture. "We have virtual slime, we have virtual snow, we have virtual presents. And we also have Patrick Star who's going to be commentating on our game from Bikini Bottom, which is new. Patrick's never commentated on a game before. So it's going to be all kinds of new energy and all kinds of fun."

Dylan will once again be on the sidelines and is looking forward to interviewing some of the best players in the NFL. "I have different players that I can't wait to interview," Dylan said. "Hopefully, I get to interview Jalen Ramsey and Russell Wilson. Those are my top two players that I want to interview. And they're both on different teams. Jalen Ramsey's on the Rams. Russell Wilson's on the Denver Broncos, so whoever wins, hopefully, I get to interview them."

For Green, this will be the third time she's in the booth. And while she's there to help fans understand the NFL, she has also learned a lot about the game from Eagle and Burleson. "I've learned so much from them about the NFL starting from year one where I was amazed by a punt," Green said. "I had never gone to a football game. I had never seen it in real life. And now we're almost in year three, game three, where Noah and Nate have taught me so much. They've taught me how to just go with the flow and just live in the moment and things like that. It's been a blessing to have them as mentors and as two people who have really given me so much advice." 

The Nickelodeon NFL Nickmas Game will start at 4:30 p.m. ET and will air on Nickelodeon, CBS and Paramount+.


SpongeBob, Slime and ... Russell Wilson? Nickelodeon’s Circle Grows Into Football and Golf.

The kids television channel now broadcasts NFL games. It hosts a football highlights show. It even held a golf competition. Which sports will it Nickify next?

n a Tuesday afternoon in November, former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson stood patiently in a CBS studio as slime was applied to his face. A Nickelodeon crew member armed with a ketchup bottle full of the green stuff squirted tiny globs onto a rag and carefully dabbed him with it.

His NFL Slimetime cohost, 13 year-old Young Dylan (nĂ© Dylan Gilmer), who also stars in the channel’s Tyler Perry vehicle (also named Young Dylan), met the same fate.

“Here we go, champ,” Burleson chanted to his lightly complaining coworker by way of motivation. “Here we go.”

Burleson and Dylan were about to go blobbing for apples. Yes, blobbing: bobbing, but Nickelodeon-style, in a vat of slime. Each fruit that Burleson and his NFL Slimetime cohost extracted bore the logo of a football team—together representing the pair’s three picks for the following week of games.

The stage manager bellowed: “Let’s be ready to shoot this, because [the slime] is at its drippiest right now.” And so they plunged their faces into the vat, shooting one of the Week 11 episode’s last segments, which displayed the Jets, Broncos and Vikings picks. A day of taping football headlines, highlights (or “slimelights”) and some light analysis was nearly complete. Confetti and dancing followed.

NFL Slimetime is not to be confused with the out-of-control-messy Slime Time Live of the early aughts, in which random, eager children visiting the network’s since-shuttered Orlando studio got pied and slimed into oblivion outdoors as a “reward” for completing games and answering trivia questions. No, the modern weekly half-hour show is in its second season, and the use of slime is decidedly more restrained and sophisticated. Young Dylan isn’t the only kid involved in this production—the next generation of NFL “insiders” also includes, apparently, Burleson’s daughter, Mia, and another Dylan, the daughter of ESPN reporter Adam Schefter. They interview prominent players and break down key facts about them, adding color to the show.

NFL teams and athletes actively participate in NFL Slimetime, too: Each Wednesday evening on the show, Nick hands out an “NVP” award to that slate’s best performer. On that day a package with a trademark bright-orange blimp (the channel’s longtime logo) was headed to Indianapolis for Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, along with two gallons of slime for his teammates to accost him with. Shawn Robbins, who executive-produces the show, proudly says, “[The NVP is] the only way [athletes] can get a blimp,” since the cancellation of the Kids’ Choice Sports award show in 2019. And they really do seem to covet those blimps, which have long been an unlikely status symbol among not just kids but also the Hollywood and sports elite.

When riffing on Nickelodeon’s deep dive of the past few years into professional sports, one verb is unfortunately inescapable: Nickify. The word itself is an important branding exercise, and it also signifies the emphasis put on IP like SpongeBob and its associated visuals. Ashley Kaplan, whose job, in part, is to oversee unscripted TV at Nickelodeon, says there is almost no reason not to use famous IP (Nick seems to air a whole lot of Paw Patrol and SpongeBob these days) to put a twist on straight sports content. It’s a “yes, and” situation, she says. Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr wrote about his first encounter with this form of sports broadcast, the 2021 Nick wild-card game that he expected to dislike, thusly:

"To be honest, my [column] plan was an unoriginal Fear and Loathing rip-off where we talked in great detail about the neon green and orange psychedelia adorning the field and how the random insertion of SpongeBob SquarePants characters felt like an intrusive pandemic lockdown fever dream; the moment when all of the haunting childhood cartoons and songs that live in our heads throughout the endless, eventless days finally seep their way into the adult programming we use to escape that reality for a few moments every weekend. A real hellscape, of sorts."

But, he eventually concluded, the broadcast was “a revelation” for him—and maybe for others, too. Slime-drenched shenanigans, as it turns out, can be part of a worthwhile exercise in taking sports a touch less seriously.

Beyond football, Nick has dived into a considerably harder task of getting kids to watch golf. The channel’s taped Slime Cup in June featured once-world No. 1 golfer Jon Rahm and NFL players Saquon Barkley and Justin Herbert, among other golfers and celebrities. But the level of Nickification that would suffice to entice kids during a football broadcast just wouldn’t do for golf. There had to be more gimmicks. A lot more.

The seven-hole experience—and it is quite an experience—pitted four teams against one another: each with a golfer, a child personality, and a non-golf athlete. Vaguely golf-adjacent challenges that preceded the actual swings included the kids racing to down a rancid combination of hot fudge, anchovies, sprinkles, clam sauce, marshmallows and asparagus. The losing kid’s whole team had to wear Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes of shame while they played the subsequent hole. The golf pros had only wacky, inconvenient clubs at their disposal. Get the idea? For the title, Rahm’s and Justin Thomas’s squads ultimately faced off in the Rose Bowl, whose field was pocked with slime cannons.

Nickelodeon has greatly bolstered its football coverage in recent years, which had previously been limited to two wild-card weekend game simulcasts with CBS (a Paramount sister network), in 2021 and ’22. Next up for Nick: the Christmas Day game simulcast between the Broncos and Rams—a matchup that must’ve sounded more compelling to the league and networks before the season got underway. Nevertheless, they’re promising to make the best of it. The Nickelodeon NFL Nickmas Game, as it’s called, will be anchored by commentary from Burleson and Noah Eagle (son of the legendary Ian), sideline reporting from Young Dylan and live commentary from [checks notes] Patrick Star. One can imagine the end-zone slime cannons and character overlays of years past will persist.

This extended foray into professional sports is not from exactly the same playbook as the iconic, pseudo-athletic-related Nick programming of decades past—Double Dare, GUTS and Wild & Crazy Kids chief among them. But events like the simulcasts, NFL Slimetime and the Slime Cup harness the elements that made those shows what they were to give us a pro sports viewing experience that’s unique, unmistakably gooey and frequently fun.

Julie Dobrow, a professor of child study, human development and media at Tufts, observes, correctly, “You can’t have Nickelodeon programming without slime.” Burleson adds, “When you have the opportunity to play with slime, you get lost in it.”

Rahm claims he wouldn’t have even competed in the Slime Cup if he wasn’t going to get doused in the radioactive-looking stuff. “That’s the whole fun of it, right?” he asks. “If I’m not getting slimed from head to toe, why even do it?” (He did, in fact, get slimed, with some fraction of the 660 gallons on hand for the Cup.)

Mathew Klickstein, the author of Slimed!, an excellent oral history of the early days of Nickelodeon, posits that we love slime because it ties into humor researcher Peter McGraw’s idea of “benign violation,” other examples of which include play-fighting and tickling—stimuli that might present a threat but are, at their core, safe and even exciting when done right. As Klickstein explains it, “[Slime] is so irreverent. It is exactly what you’re not supposed to do. It’s mess. It’s slop. It’s filth. It’s almost garbage. It’s almost like toxic waste. It even kind of looks like it. It’s bright green. Yet you’re playing with it. You’re engaging with it.”

Even Young Dylan—who earlier didn’t seem so appreciative of its engagement with his face—sings slime’s praises. “My favorite part of filming the show might be the dirtiest stuff ever, going in the slime,” he says. “Everybody I talk to that watches the show loves when we go in the slime. It’s slime—everybody loves slime.”

Slime is goopy and gloppy and gross, but in theory it shouldn’t permanently ruin your clothes, your hair or the floor. It’s all temporary. And it’s key to Nickelodeon’s past and present, starting in the 1980s with You Can’t Do That on Television, which was comedy sketches, not sports. But Double Dare was sports, in its own disgusting way. It was catching pies in your oversized pants and shoving your hands up giant mucus-y nostrils to snag a tiny flag. (For kids of a certain age, because they’re universally gross and obsessed with gross things the more their parents want them to be prim and proper, absolutely nothing was more captivating than the sight and feel of those nostrils.) It was allowing Marc Summers (who made a recent NFL Slimetime cameo) to bring out the doofus in you and in himself. It was the best.

The slime-free stuff, like GUTS, was also sports. It pitted kids against each other in various goofy, bungee-corded competitions to vie for a piece of the booby-trapped Aggro Crag they had to climb to claim victory, all while Mike O’Malley shouted his lovingly deranged play-by-play. It was also the best.

Shows like these eventually ran and reran on a separate Viacom channel, since revived and once more shuttered, called Nickelodeon Games and Sports for Kids. “What I thought was great about Nickelodeon back in those days is that it wasn’t about branding and selling consumer products. It was about entertaining kids,” O’Malley says. “The whole conceit of GUTS was a kid sees his favorite athlete dunk a basketball. He wants to know what that feels like. How do we simulate that for him and then put that in a competition?”

It’s a departure, then, or at the very least a pretty drastic evolution, to delve into real sports and replace the eager kiddos on broadcasts with [extremely Rugrats voice] grown-ups. Grown-ups who know what they’re doing and have made careers out of tackling and throwing and catching and even putting. The kid becomes the spectator, rather than a would-be participant waiting to shoot their shot.

Has Nick, then, with its interest in professional sports, fully severed ties from its charming game show history? “Uh, I’m not gonna go there,” says GUTS cocreator Albie Hecht with a laugh.

Robbins sees his work as a departure from the past, as well. “It’s completely different to do what’s been done before [on Nickelodeon] as far as sports and be on the fringe, whereas now we’re in it,” he says. “We’re in the game.”

Burleson prefers to think about Nick’s forays into football and golf as a “dive, cannonball-style, into the deep end of slime when it comes to sports.” He sees GUTS and its ilk as direct predecessors, a dip in the shallow end of the pool, to more sports-centric programming like NFL Slimetime. But whether it’s a new step or a “yes, and” built atop the old, it’s clear that Nickelodeon has struck (gunky) gold.

In sharing its IP with Nickelodeon, the NFL can shore up its younger audience before those kids are even eligible for Pop Warner football. Sure, kids can watch Fox or CBS with their parents, but the broadcast doesn’t feel like it’s for them in the same way. The terms are complicated, the players may be unfamiliar and there are no kids on the field or in the broadcast booth to describe what’s happening.

“I understand why the NFL is making the broadcast—because they’re trying to create more fans,” O’Malley says. “From the NFL’s perspective, why wouldn’t you?”

The benefits of the partnership for Nick are obvious, too. The 2021 and ’22 wild-card game simulcasts on the network drew 2.061 million and 1.333 million viewers, respectively. The ’21 edition, in which the Saints defeated the Bears, was the most-watched program on Nickelodeon in four years, and the 30.653 million total viewers (Nick and CBS combined) were the most of any NFL wild-card weekend game that season. For the Slime Cup, 315,000 viewers tuned in.

There’s also a clear qualitative benefit. “Nickelodeon is adding its icons for branding purposes,” Dobrow says, quipping, “but they’re also adding SpongeBob because kids like SpongeBob.”

Perhaps as important as the sheer numbers and the opportunity to burn SpongeBob’s laugh into everyone’s brain are the co-viewing experiences the simulcasts, NFL Slimetime and the Slime Cup can generate among family members. “If a parent from our generation is sharing with their 10-year-old something from a Nickelodeon sports broadcast, they’re not just sharing that sports broadcast, they’re sharing Nickelodeon,” Klickstein says.

That’s a big feat, with YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, video games, other linear channels (Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel) and more options increasingly competing for kids’ media consumption time. “Nowadays, kids are so distracted by everything,” Robbins says. “This is really just another way to get kids into something, which is football, something they can share.”

It’s clear that Nickelodeon is getting kids interested in football and golf from a young age. The golf part, at least, makes immediate sense—it’s a sport that doesn’t traditionally appeal to young people, and the Slime Cup show had to take the time to define terms like chip shot and mulligan. “I think it has the ability to bring the sport to a totally new set of eyeballs that don’t watch it,” says Excel Sports Management vice president Kevin Hopkins, an executive producer on the Slime Cup and The Match. (He, too, peppers his thoughts with “Nickify.”) When discussing ways to grow the sport, Hopkins puts the Slime Cup in the same category as Topgolf, the bowling-esque leisure activity that replaces lanes with a driving range.

But on the football side, in a league particularly rife with head injuries, violent tackles and suspensions related to sexual misconduct, Nickifying might not be a good thing. “There has always been a lot of concern about the question of violence in media and its possible effects on children,” Dobrow says, noting that there have been thousands of studies done on the topic in the U.S. and worldwide. “My own reading of it is that there’s [a connection] there.” She also says she bets researchers will pounce on the chance to study the impact of a sport like football being shown as part of programming for kids.

There is precedent for Nick handling sensitive subjects with care. The long-running program Nick News, originally hosted by journalist Linda Ellerbee, routinely explained subjects like Sept. 11, global warming and sexual harassment to viewers in a kid-friendly but serious and informative way. There’s no reason the NFL and Nick couldn’t take that approach to controversial on- and off-field issues that arise in NFL coverage.

Take Deshaun Watson’s suspension in light of 29 massage therapists sharing their accounts of sexual harassment and assault, or Tua Tagovailoa’s consecutive head injuries and the way they were arguably mishandled by the Dolphins and the league. But Nick would have to actively decide to go the route of incorporating those elements into its simulcasts and NFL Slimetime, rather than ignoring those issues and hoping that those seeking more information think to flip to CBS, the broadcast of record. Nickelodeon referred SI to the NFL when asked for comment about the partnership between the network and the league as it relates to injuries and misconduct. The league declined to make a representative available for an interview and issued the following statement: “We have been working with our broadcast partners for several years now to think of new and different ways around game presentation. The Nick broadcasts were a result of our conversations and the creativity of the folks at CBS Sports and have been very well received.”

Dobrow sees the utility in the prospect of Nick potentially being open about the hazards that come with promoting the NFL. “What a public service that would be for [Nickelodeon] to be talking about some of the issues of head injuries,” she says. “I’m speaking as a mother to four kids, two of whom between the two of them have five concussions.” O’Malley has a take, too. “Are you kidding me? I have three kids. Kids … have to have active shooting drills,” he says, meaning surely they can also handle controversies in other areas of life. “Everybody’s gotta stop clutching their pearls, man.”

Burleson, when he’s not blobbing for apples, believes he can explain anything in a context kids will pick up on. “A player getting suspended for something is like getting suspended from your school,” he says. “You did something bad. You have to face the consequences. … [The wild-card simulcasts weren’t] Football for Dummies. It was more football for fans that aren’t as hardcore.”

There’s some obvious room for growth in the not-quite–for Dummies approach Nick has taken to sports. Hopkins is “in conversations” with Nick brass about turning the Slime Cup into a franchise. The NFL beat is clearly going strong, for good and ill. What else could be Nickified? The answer is probably closely tied to what sports and leagues the Paramount family has rights to (NWSL, anyone?), but:

Major League Baseball, if you ask O’Malley, both with slime cannons every time Aaron Judge mashes a homer, and with Little League tournaments on Nick so kids can see their peers play. Hockey and basketball, if you ask Hopkins. Basketball, in fact, was a popular choice among those polled. Young Dylan thinks that would be “fire.” (Imagine the NBA All-Star weekend dunk contest!) Burleson would like to “Nickify up” the Olympics. Rahm’s gut answer is pickleball, which he thinks kids must be getting into anyway, as the sport’s popularity soars among people of all ages.

Meanwhile, back in the pseudo-sports realm, Hecht is holding out hope for a GUTS reboot he’s developing: He wants to combine bungee jumping and cornhole and have adult contestants. It’s an event that kids of all ages will love in its original form. No Nickification needed.


Who's calling the game?

Noah Eagle will return as the play-by-play broadcaster for the special Nickelodeon broadcast, while Nate Burleson (The NFL Today) and Nickelodeon star Gabrielle Nevaeh Green (That Girl Lay Lay) return as the color analysts for the game. Nickelodeon star Young Dylan (Dylan Gilmer from Tyler Perry's Young Dylan) is back for his second season as the sideline reporter.

"We're gonna have that kid-like fun," Eagle said to CBS Sports. "It's gonna feel like you watched a football game for the first time again. It's different. It's no gonna be a normal football game of any kind. 

"Christmas is a different feel already. You're with your friends, your family, so add some slime in your life. Slime is good for the soul, it's good for the heart! We're going to be just playing football with ourselves, like we're sitting right next to you -- and enjoying the goodness of slime."

Another special guest

This year's broadcast will also feature a special sideline reporter live from Bikini Bottom -- SpongeBob SquarePants' Patrick Star. Patrick will be adding live commentary throughout the game, his first venture into broadcasting after living under a rock and jellyfishing with SpongeBob for 23 years. 

"It's hard to compete with Patrick!" Green said to CBS Sports. "He's the NVP, the Nickelodeon Most Valuable Player! It's going to be a true honor to be there with Patrick Star. It's gonna be fun and a crazy, wild time. It's gonna be awesome to see one of our fan favorite characters with us this year. I hope the audience enjoys it as much as we do!" 

So where is Patrick going to be outside of Bikini Bottom? Young Dylan admitted Patrick will be on the field as well, but wouldn't give any more teasers. 

Year Three for Noah and Gabby

Engle and Green are in their third year doing the annual Nickelodeon game, which has evolved into a cultural phenomenon. The pair have become stalwarts on a broadcast that has brought a generation of new football fans thanks to their unique presentation of the game. 

"It's been crazy to see how the visual effects of this game have been going," Green said. "The first game was fantastic, but we only had the slime cannons and a couple effects here and there. The second game, we had the big slime monster to all the different things happening in the booth to make it more visually appealing. 

"This third game, we're going to have even more visually appealing things and more educational things. Over time, this has been drastic, this has been fantastic, it's been really influential and had an amazing impact on our audience."

Eagle has been amazed by how well Gabby has transitioned into her NFL role over the past three years, especially as she's evolved into the star of the current generation of Nickelodeon watchers. 

"I remember our first year, there was a punt and Gabby was enamored by it," Eagle said as he shared a laugh with Green. "We're in Year Three now -- and I'm not saying Gabby is breaking down Cover-2 defenses with a fine-tooth comb -- but her understanding of the game has improved leaps and bounds. 

"That's our goal at the end of the day. To do that with kids everywhere across the country. Maybe they're not football fans, but year after year they will get more knowledge. That's been the coolest part to me."

Year Two for Dylan
Young Dylan joined the broadcast as a sideline reporter last year and has hosted the "NFL SlimeTime" show with Burleson for the past two years. He's been a familiar face on the network as one of its brightest stars -- and his love for football is displayed tapping into the broadcasting world. 

"Having that chemistry with Nate on SlimeTime definitely helps me prepare for this," Gilmer said. "Him and Gabrielle will both be asking me what's going on on the field -- and I know their chemistry from working with them. SlimeTime plays such a big role in doing these games."


'NFL Nickmas Game': Bill Fagerbakke Talks Patrick Star's Role on Christmas Day Broadcast (Exclusive)

The NFL will have three games played on Christmas Day, and the second matchup of the day will air on Nickelodeon and CBS Sports. The broadcast team for the Nickelodeon NFL Nickmas Game will feature CBS Sports' Nate Burleson, Noah Eagle and Nickelodeon stars Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Young Dylan. A SpongeBob SquarePants star will also share his analysis on the game between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams: Patrick Star, who is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke. PopCulture.com spoke exclusively to Fagerbakke about what fans can expect from Patrick Star the NFL analyst. 

"Fans can expect to be part of an experiment because no one's ever done this before," Fagerbakke exclusively told PopCulture. "So I'm going to hope for the best. I'm going to hope that I can just contribute slightly to what is a wonderful way to broadcast a football game, to remind everyone that it is a game and that it's entertainment. And I don't know what I'm going to say, because Patrick takes over. I live to just be a vessel for Patrick. So, we'll see what happens there. But at this point, it's unknown."

Star will be sharing his analysis from Bikini Bottom. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about the game since he lives in a different world from NFL players, coaches and fans. "I think one of the things about an animated character is they're not bound by a reality as we think of it," Fagerbakke added. "So since this whole world, what they're doing with the Nickelodeon broadcast with the slime, and I guess this year there's going to be snow and it's presidents in crazy stuff and SpongeBob, and there's all kinds of crazy stuff that is added to what you see."

It's likely Star will have a lot of fun with the broadcast. As for Fagerbakke, he's looking forward to an exciting game. "I've been a football... An NFL fan since the late '60s," he said. "In 1969, I started following the Rams and they won their first 11 games with Roman Gabriel and Deacon Jones," he said. "That's when I became hooked, even though I was living in Idaho. I became hooked on Deacon Jones and his presence and amazing abilities. So I've been a Rams fan ever since. And so this... I'm the perfect guy for it." 

The Nickelodeon NFL Nickmas Game will kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday and will also stream on Parmount+.  


Bill Fagerbakke delighted to play Patrick Star in NFL on Nickelodeon game: 'We don't know what's gonna happen'

Fagerbakke talks with CBS Sports and breaks down what to expect on Sunday's 'NFL Nickmas Game' broadcast

Professional goofball.

This is the only way Bill Fagerbakke knows how to describe himself when he explains what he does for a living, and enjoys every second of playing one of the most beloved characters in television. 

Fagerbakke has spent two decades making generations of fans laugh as the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants' best friend and partner in chaos, Patrick Star. Even Fagerbakke can take on a new challenge, especially if it's with the character he's provided the voice for over the past 22 years. 

Come Christmas Day, Fagerbakke and "Patrick" will be in a new element. Patrick will be providing live commentary for the third Nickelodeon NFL game, the first to be held in the regular season. He'll be joining Noah Engle, Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Young Dylan, live from Bikini Bottom as the newest addition to the popular Nickelodeon broadcast (Sunday, Dec. 25, 4:30 p.m. ET). 

"To be a part of this, it's kind of terrifying," Fagerbakke said to CBS Sports in preparation for the game. "We don't know what's gonna happen. I just have to trust in Patrick. Let him take over and he will bring a passel of material and awareness of what is happening. And I'll just try to stay out of the way of Nate Burleson, Noah Eagle, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green -- who are all wonderful and capture the right spirit the broadcast needs.

"I don't want to get in their way and contribute whatever they need." 

Patrick Star has been a sensation in the SpongeBob universe. From the many quotable lines ("Is mayonnaise an instrument" and "I can't see my forehead" to name a few) to all the memorable scenes, Fagerbakke has made dozens of generations laugh with his portrayal of the character. 

Through the years, he still laughs when fans bring up Patrick to him or ask him to repeat one of his many memorable lines. 

"Patrick still makes me laugh," Fagerbakke said with a huge smile on his face. "You don't understand how extraordinary it is to be doing something for over 22 years and he still can make you laugh. I'm just so delighted and fortunate. 

"I've heard many lines I forgot I've said 10 years ago! I would go to myself, 'OK what happened in that episode again, especially the one where I said I can't see my forehead.' One time I had a moment where someone wanted me to say 'it's not my wallet' and I have forgotten about that line!

"I had to watch that episode again. It's so great."

While Patrick is his most memorable character, Fagerbakke spent nine seasons playing the beloved Dauber on "Coach" (in case one would wonder what Patrick knows about football). Prior to his acting career, Fagerbakke actually played college football at the University of Idaho before a knee injury ended his playing career. 

As a football lifer, being a part of a broadcast featuring Los Angeles Rams (who play the Denver Broncos in the Nickelodeon game) makes the game even more special. 

"I've been a football fan since 1969 when the Los Angeles Rams won their first 11 games with Roman Gabriel, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, Jack Snow and all those guys," Fagerbakke said. "I became hooked then and obviously I got to play through junior high and high school and a couple years of college.

"I love [the game]. I think it's the ultimate team game and I really appreciate the careers of these professional players."

Will Fagerbakke use his "Coach" and playing expertise and morph it into Patrick? Let's not get carried away here. 

"In my career as a professional goofball -- which is what I've been able to enjoy -- you can say my nine years of 'Coach' was preparation for Patrick," Fagerbakke said with a laugh. "In the world of Bikini Bottom, I'm not sure if we would benefit from an outside reality, but that's the interesting thing, right? How much do I sustain that? I don't know, but that's gonna be the fun part.

"Maybe they should give me a shock collar or something in case I say something they don't wanna hear, they can just press the button." 

Patrick's role in the broadcast is the biggest mystery of the Nickelodeon game, from where he will be throughout the broadcast to what he is actually going to do once the game starts. Playing Patrick in the Nickelodeon game wasn't something Fagerbakke sought out, making the experience even more worthwhile. 

"I'm not that smart to think of that," Fagerbakke said as he laughed. "I'm nothing but delighted at this prospect. Every football fan -- don't you think -- has some degree on how they would do as an announcer? They wish they could be in that booth and say what they thought was going on.

"I actually get to participate in a very dramatically specific way that's nothing like an announcer -- but just being part of the party!"

Fagerbakke has made a life entertaining people of all ages -- and wants to do the same come Sunday. The "professional goofball" role will stick, even as he laughed when he was told he plays "the dumbest guy in Bikini Bottom." 

"Maybe that can be a little sign on his rock -- Home of the dumbest guy in town!" Fagerbakke laughed. "One never anticipates what I've been able to be a part of and the way it's resonated with people. Just look at your generation and sharing it with your kids.

"I love every minute of this show. It's such a delight."


From Sportico:


Los Angeles is finally getting a White Christmas—sort of. 

When the Rams host the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium, the matchup of 4-10 teams will also be a spotlight moment for augmented reality tech, both on TV and in the $5 billion venue.

In addition to CBS’ coverage of the game, Nickelodeon will air ‘Nickmas’ coverage, its first regular-season version of the slime-filled AltCast that has impressed playoff viewers for two years running.

Shawn Robbins, the game’s coordinating producer for Nick, said the network has increased the amount of AR in the show by more than 10x. Viewers at home can expect to see a virtual Yeti stalking the field, roaming across multiple camera angles and armed with snowballs, while Patrick Star joins the booth via the magic of live motion capture. Viewers at home will also see an entire section of the stadium appear to get slimed. 

“The first year, we had the slime cannons, the next year we had a couple of AR pieces and the slime monster,” Robbins said. “And this year, we’ve taken it to a whole new level as far as the controllability of the AR.”

Virtual tech isn’t only the domain of broadcast television. For fans in the stands at SoFi, the Rams will have a few tricks of their own. Nick and Snap have partnered with the team to virtually slime fans on the team’s 70,000 square-foot Infinity Screen. 

The Rams are also working with mixed reality company ARound to build their own multi-featured app-based AR experience, Rams House AR. Users input their seat numbers, helping the app display a live augmented view of what they’d see if they put their phones down. On Sunday, fans will be able to participate in virtual snowball fights as the field gradually turns white, or try their fingers at a 3D kicking challenge. Other elements will appear on screens (and seemingly on field) in response to key moments in the game.

In early tests, Rams VP and GM of media Marissa Daly said the average user was spending more than 10 minutes in the app.

“We hope we show you a great football game for sure… but I don’t play football,” Daly said in an interview. “And so we want to make sure that everything around that experience also leaves you wanting to come back.”

While other franchises wave towels or belt out classic anthems, the Rams are leaning into Hollywood-sized entertainment to build their brand.

“We were in Green Bay [Monday], and they have a totally different philosophy than we do, and that’s OK, right? Different markets are different,” Daly said. “This town expects invention, reinvention. They expect you to wow them.”

There was a time when owners would have shuddered at the sight of fans pulling out their phones en masse during a game. But teams are increasingly not only accepting the practice, but encouraging it, pushing apps and QR codes that leverage phones’ advanced cameras and functionality to connect fans with each other.

As companies such as Meta and Apple invest more in mixed reality hardware, those interfaces could change, too. It may not be long before fans don’t need to look up at the jumbotron to catch a replay, or pull out their phone to check a fantasy score. Instead, those both might be a tap away on their glasses. 

“We don’t want to be left out when that goes big, and we have to understand it,” Rams CTO Skarpi Hedinsson said in an interview. “That’s why I think what we’re doing in AR today with ARound and Snap is important, because it gets us that muscle memory.”

With ARound’s platform, the Rams also integrate the AR scenes into their display board and another version of the experience for fans who aren’t at the stadium.

SoFi is the presenting sponsor of Rams House AR, showing that there is revenue to be had in these enhancements as well. Elsewhere, the Rams have partnered with Disney for previous Snap AR Lens displays, like when fans were recently turned into Na’vi from the Avatar series.

Many of these elements, on Nick and at SoFi, might primarily appeal to the most casual cross-section of fans. But over time, the tech is likely to evolve in ways that improve the experience for the most football-obsessed, too.

ESPN recently introduced 3-point distance markers to its NBA coverage, while the Clippers have set up an alternate feed showing real-time shooting percentage. Amazon added open receiver metrics to its Prime Vision version of Thursday Night Football, and the PGA Tour is working with an AR startup to give diehards along the ropes a more immersive experience. 

“I realize we’re doing the silly stuff, adding in a yeti and snowballs, but this could really be anything you want to put on,” Robbins said. “Anything creatively, anything that helps better tell the story of the game, these things are all going to be seen. Without a doubt, this is the future.”


CBS Sports, Nickelodeon Reprising ‘NFL Nickmas Game’ for Broncos-Rams Featuring Augmented Reality

Nickelodeon and CBS Sports will reprise its Emmy Award-winning augmented reality Slimecast with a regular-season production of the Christmas Day matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos.

Marketed as the "Nickelodeon NFL Nickmas Game," the alternative broadcast will mimic previous "Nickified" Wild Card productions the past two seasons. Among the technological innovations — some of which are powered by the Unreal Engine content group Silver Spoon — will be green slime, snow and presents being shot out of a cannon; augmented reality Nickelodeon characters being beamed on the field; and a virtual Nick blimp cascading through the host SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. 

The Famous Group was responsible for the broadcast’s popular Slime Monster in a previous SlimeCast, helping Nickelodeon and CBS Sports win two Emmys in the categories of Outstanding Playoff Coverage and Outstanding Live Graphic Design.

Nickelodeon’s prior game-day announcers will also return, with CBS’ Nate Burleson, Noah Eagle and Nick actress Gabrielle Nevaeh Green collaborating to call the game — which will also air on NFL+. Nickelodeon’s Young Dylan will also return as sideline reporter. The traditional Rams-Broncos broadcast, which kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET, can be seen on regular CBS and will stream on Paramount+, the CBS Sports app, NFL digital properties and NFL+.

During the same game, the Rams will continue the implementation of their shared augmented reality platform known as RamsHouseAR. Fans either attending the game or watching at home can download the Rams’ AR app and play immersive metaverse-styled 3D games that simulate being on the field kicking a field goal.


Know before you go: Rams vs. Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium

The Los Angeles Rams will host the Denver Broncos this Sunday, December 25 at 1:30 p.m. PT in a Week 16 Christmas Day clash presented by Nickelodeon.

To ensure efficient entry, fans are encouraged to enter SoFi Stadium at least 60 minutes prior to kickoff. All parking lots will open at 9:00 a.m. PT and all gates will open at 11:00 a.m. PT.

From 11:00 a.m. PT - 12:00 p.m. PT on Sunday, there will be early entry specials featuring $5 beer, $3 water and soda, and $5 kettle corn from hawkers in American Airlines Plaza and inside the north entries. Fans should arrive early to enjoy special pricing.

The Rams will celebrate the holidays throughout gameday:

  • Fans in attendance will receive a Nickelodeon branded Holiday Slime Scarf upon entry while supplies last.
  • Santa will be in attendance for photo opportunities from 11:15am – 12 p.m. in Rams Land Kids Zone and again from 12:40 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.
  • American Airlines Plaza will also feature a photo opportunity for fans with an oversized Hanukkah Menorah, Kwanzaa Kinara and a dozen Christmas trees.
  • The Equipment Room will feature three limited edition t-shirts and a sweatshirt featuring SpongeBob SquarePants along with Rams holiday hats and ornaments.
  • Fans at home and in attendance can experience shared augmented reality (AR) with the help of ARound, sponsored by SoFi by visiting www.ramshousear.com.


To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all guests, details of what fans can expect include:

  1. Arrive Early: Fans should plan to arrive at least an hour before kickoff through various means of transportation. Parking lots will open at 9:00 a.m. PT and all gates will open at 11:00 a.m. PT. Guests should check their mobile tickets for recommended stadium entry.
  2. Parking & Transportation: Visit www.therams.com/parking to explore all parking and transportation options and information, including a link to off-site options. Stadium parking lots open at 9:00 a.m. PT and are only available for advance purchases. Guests should prepare for limited parking at the Kia Forum.
  3. Mobile Ticketing: All Los Angeles Rams tickets will be mobile-only. Print-at-home tickets (otherwise known as PDFs) and screenshots are not allowed in the NFL as part of a league-wide mandate. Guests are encouraged to download tickets to their mobile wallet prior to arriving at SoFi Stadium for the most efficient entry. New pedestal ticket scanners at SoFi Stadium allow guests to tap to enter with tickets saved to their mobile wallet.
  4. Clear Bag: Any bags brought to the game must be compliant with the NFL's Clear Bag Policy. Visit NFL.com/allclear for more information.
  5. Security, Entry, Wayfinding: Through the new Evolv security screeners, fans will not need to remove items from pockets or bags. The Evolv system uses advanced technology, AI and analytics to help detect weapons and other potential threats.
  6. Cashless Transactions: SoFi Stadium is a cashless facility. Cash will not be accepted. All major credit cards, debit cards and methods of mobile pay are accepted.
  7. Food Enhancements: SoFi Stadium partnered with Jon and Vinny to refresh its LA Eats menu to introduce fresh, new menu items based on fan feedback from last season.

For more information about Rams gameday, please visit www.therams.com/gameday.


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