Puppy Bowl XX: Behind the Scenes at the Super Bowl’s Adorable Cousin

The other big game on Super Bowl Sunday? The 20th outing of Animal Planet’s football game for puppies (complete with a kitten halftime show).

It’s frowned upon when N.F.L. players complain to the referees. But at least they don’t urinate on them.

The same cannot be said for the competitors in the Puppy Bowl, Animal Planet’s canine football game that takes place in October but does not air until the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday.

The event’s referee, Dan Schachner, stays ready for all eventualities by keeping five identical uniforms in his dressing room so he can change when accidents occur. Mr. Schachner, 49, admitted he had gotten lax about handing out penalties for “premature watering of the lawn” since he began calling the game in 2011.

“I don’t automatically reach for the flag,” he said. “We have a game to play.”

This year’s Puppy Bowl, which will be televised at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, is the 20th edition of the event, a milestone for a program that began as a tongue-in-cheek feed of puppy playtime before evolving into a counterprogramming juggernaut.

The three-hour skirmish over a football-shaped chew toy has been on the air for longer than “Grey’s Anatomy.” Animal Planet said last year’s Puppy Bowl “reached” more than 13 million viewers.

Dan Schachner, who is the Puppy Bowl’s official referee, keeps five identical uniforms around so he is prepared for any accidents.Animal Planet

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