The NFL on Nickelodeon was exactly as much fun as you could hope for

Transition graphics from the NFL wild-card game on Nickelodeon.
Transition graphics from the NFL wild-card game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, as seen on Nickelodeon. (Image credit: NFL/ViacomCBS)

The NFL playoffs are serious business. Entire seasons come down to just one game. Injuries, bad calls and just dumb luck can sink a year's worth of work. And at the end of a 2020 season that's been anything but normal, we've all just been hoping to actually see the final 13 games take place.

And serious times call for serious measures. Enter the NFL on ... Nickelodeon?

There's nothing new about log rolling when it comes to live TV. Every morning you see the broadcast networks promoting prime-time events coming up later that night or that week. Same goes for sports, with in-game promos by the announcers who seamlessly go right back to calling balls and strikes, or first downs and touchdowns.

But the Jan. 10 NFL wild-card game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears ushered in a different level of fun, with the game being broadcast on Nickelodeon as well as on CBS proper. (It also was available on the not-nearly-as-fun Amazon Prime Video.) Both Nickelodeon and CBS are part of the ViacomCBS family, so the pairing wasn't completely out of left field. Or the backfield, in this case.

I hadn't really been paying attention, so I didn't know what to expect going into it. There were different commercials, of course. Some overlapped, but a good many were geared toward a traditional Nickelodeon audience, which tops out at the teenage set (at least the ones not yet glued to their phones). Contrast that to the CBS crowed, which may well have taken a nap a halftime.

From left, Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Noah Eagle work the Nickelodeon booth for the Saints-Bears playoff game.

From left, Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green and Noah Eagle work the Nickelodeon booth for the Saints-Bears playoff game. (Image credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

But it was the in-game graphics and transitions to and from the adverts that really made the Saints-Bears game that much more fun. Instead of slick animations, sharp edges and metallic-looking logos where was ... slime. If you've somehow never been immersed in Nickelodeon or are outside the late Gen Z window, slime very much is in the DNA of Nickelodeon. The only thing missing on that front was former Dallas quarterback-turned-favorite color man Tony Romo telling Jim Nantz "I don't know," and having a bucket of green goo dumped on his head. Alas, Romo was working remotely due to COVID protocols. (In any other context that might elicit some sort of joke of yet another Romo failure to show up in the postseason, but I am above such things.) That also wasn't going to happen because Nantz and Romo weren't calling the Nickelodeon game, which instead was worked by Noah Eagle, analyst Nate Burleson and Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, one of the stars of All That and Nickelodeon's Unfiltered.

To be clear, outside of what you'd call "furniture" — graphics that visible on screen during the game — and promos and transitions, what you got was a regular football game, just with different announcers than what was on CBS. Nobody was putting googly eyes on Drew Brees while he was scrambling in the pocket.

No, the game was just a lot more fun to watch around the edges.

There also was an overload of Spongebob Squarepants. That's also not surprising, not just because Spongebob lives in a pineapple under the sea on Nickelodeon, but also because 2021 will give birth to the Spongebob spinoff Kamp Koral, as well as The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run, both of which will be on CBS All Access, which is soon to become Paramount+.

In other words, it's all about that cross-promotion, folks. But fortunately for us, it also was an NFL game with a little added fun. And lord knows we need a little more of that these days.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for and Mobile Nations and is the Dad part of Modern Dad.