Sports column: Checking out some Super Bowl counterprogramming

Published 7:00 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us once again. Somewhere around 113 million Americans will watch the Philadelphia Eagles play the Kansas City Chiefs for the NFL championship.

Of course, that means that approximately 220 million Americans will not watch that game. It seems odd that two-thirds of the country could not care less about such a major event, and it’s always made me marvel at their entertainment options for the day.

Super Bowl counterprogramming has been with us a long time. In the 1990s, a number of television shows had special episodes that would air at halftime.

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The sketch comedy show “In Living Color” pioneered it with a live episode in 1992, and by the end of the decade the WWE had an “empty arena” match between the Rock and Mankind on USA Network.

The Rock slamming Mankind into a catering table, pausing for a second to eat a salsa-laden chip, and disgustedly yelling, “It’s mild!” cracks me up every time. It can also be a go-to joke at your Super Bowl party for the three people on Earth who might get it.

A few years later, Animal Planet started up its “Puppy Bowl” featuring dogs and cats romping around. The Puppy Bowl will celebrate its 19th edition this Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.

ESPN and FS1 are trying to draft off of the Puppy Bowl’s success this year. ESPN will air highlights of the American Kennel Club Dog Show at 7 p.m., and FS1 has a replay of the 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. So it seems football fans and dog people are two major but distinctly separate demographics.

There is plenty of college and NBA basketball to go around early in the day, but sports largely gets out of the way of the Super Bowl the same way little fish clear out when a shark enters the area.

The only game that will even overlap the Super Bowl is an Auburn vs. Alabama women’s basketball game that starts at 4 p.m. Kickoff for the Super Bowl is at 5:30, so viewers will have to make a hard choice between the fourth quarter of Auburn-Alabama or the first quarter of Eagles-Chiefs. OK, maybe that’s not that hard a choice.

In 2017 there was a women’s basketball game between South Florida and Memphis that started at the same time as Super Bowl LI between the Falcons and Patriots. The announced attendance for the basketball game was 174. I’ve always wondered whether that was lower than the number who watched it on Fox Sports South.

No major TV network will waste a new episode opposite the NFL’s ratings juggernaut, but they still have to air something. So if you’re a contrarian you can see reruns of “America’s Got Talent” (NBC); “South Park” (Comedy Central); or “The World’s Funniest Weather” (Weather Channel).

I’ve seen “The World’s Funniest Weather.” The show’s name is highly misleading. It’s not very funny, and the home videos that are featured only occasionally involve weather.

Movie fans can catch a Shirley Temple marathon on Turner Classic Movies. That definitely seems like a 180-degree turn from the football demographic.

So I suppose there is plenty of counterprogramming out there if you want to find it. What really needs to happen for the non-Super Bowl networks to take back this Sunday is for them to join forces.

Let’s have a mash-up show where Shirley Temple wrestles the Rock, in a hurricane, while surrounded by puppies on a basketball court, as the creators of “South Park” and Keenan Ivory Wayans serve as play-by-play announcers.

I’d drag myself away from the Super Bowl to watch a few minutes of that.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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