Front paws rise as the motor revs up, when beckoned to prance across the field in the Puppy Bowl Sunday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The third annual event was far less about the critters competing against each other than it was showcasing them for adoption. Thirty puppies and a dozen kittens from Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville competed. The $5 suggested donation went to Brother Wolf, and this time also Sweet Bear Rescue Farm in Flat Rock.
Sweet Bear, which is newer onto the non-profit rescue scene, is home to nearly 20 animals with a revolving door of foster pets and such ongoing residents as Ollie the pot-bellied pig.
Sanctuary Brewing hosts as a benefit for Sweet Bear, in the third annual Vegan Chili Cookoff on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m.
In the Puppy Bowl, only a few pets at a time went onto midfield. That way, each got more notice. In the past, bunches of adoptable pets crowded a much smaller surface in a playpen and tended to bump into each other.
Many animals hesitated to pick up a cushiony toy — which represents a football —let alone run with it to either end zone. The object of the furry players is to race across the track, often detouring and zigzagging. Younger puppies especially were set onto midfield, so they only had to go midway to the end zone.
They earn seven points for a “touchdown,” by crossing the goal line while carrying a toy in their jaws. They had several toys to choose from, including a large but soft football. Funnier Puppy Bowl moments include when one “tackles” another competitor, or tugs the toy away for a turnover.
Energetic playfulness marked strong auditions, for getting adopted. Some showed assertiveness or passive cooperation that a prospective owner prefers.
The site was Lisa McDonald and Joe Dinan’s pet-friendly craft brewery at 147 First Ave. E., across from Papa John’s Pizza. The field was set up in the taproom’s room to the right, farthest from the bar. End zones were marked for each team — Tuff and Gruff. Many pets wore bandanas either blue or red, to designate their team.
Hosts Vegan Brothers, a comic duo from L.A. popular on the Internet, talked up the adoption prospects and encouraged them to pick up the toys. “We have no idea what’s happening,” they quipped as larger puppies scurried about in various directions.
“Fumble-itis” was their quip, after a large puppy went across the field but dropped the toy before reaching the end zone. At times, young children were also on the makeshift field, and were swarmed over by affectionate puppies.
Weather cooperated. Sleet fell early morning, but rain did not ice up in the afternoon during the three-hour Puppy Bowl that began at 2 p.m.
This was ahead of Super Bowl 52 that evening, in which the Philadelphia Eagles knocked off perennial contender New England Patriots 41-33. That game had a playoff-record 1,152 total yards by the two teams.
Veteran Tom Brady passed for a SB-record 505 yards, as well as three touchdowns in a second-half rally. This was his second Super Bowl in a row of surpassing 400 aerial yards, and he did that in the third quarter. He threw for 466 in the comeback win over Atlanta a year earlier. Only Kurt Warner (414, vs. the Titans) threw for over 400 yards in a Super Bowl.
Brady, age 40, is 5-3 in Super Bowls. He was MVP in two of the three prior Super Bowls.
On Sunday, the Eagle pass rush did its part to harass Brady at key times, and knocked the ball from him before he could pass late in the game to preserve the lead.
Eagle quarterback Nick Foles, a backup with an erratic career, was pressed into action late this season. He defied postseason pressure to pass for nearly 1,000 yards and six TDs to merely one interception in three playoff games. Foles earned the SB’s MVP award, and can cash in as a free agent in the off season.
Foles threw for 373 yards and three TDs. Foles lobbed many precise passes for crucial big plays, and even more often than Brady did. That enabled the better all-around Eagles to prevail over the seasoned Patriots.
Foles even caught a TD pass on a trick play, on fourth down and a yard go go for the score instead of playing it safe for a field goal. He barked out the play call, though he was not behind center but off some to the right. Instead, Corey Clement took the snap and handed the ball to tight end Trey Burton. Burton had played some QB for Florida Gators.
Burton threw it to a wide-open Foles, who had slowly drifted into the end zone to avoid suspicion. Foles became the first player to both throw a TD pass and to also catch one in a SB. The play was in the final half-minute of the opening half. Philly reopened its lead, by 22-12 at halftime in a surprising scoring outburst.
The Super Bowl drew more than 66,000 fans, filling a dome in freezing (outdoors) Minneapolis, Minn. It seemed that many pub goers and area animal lovers were inside Sanctuary Brewing.
Many commented how cute the young pets were, and that day adopted home puppies of various breeds and sizes or kittens.
Onlookers could imagine nicknames for Puppy Bowl participants to reflect Super Bowl stars— such as Furry Foles and Crowlin’ Gronk as in tough N.E. tight end Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski.
Sanctuary Brewing is among pubs that will soon have Mardi Gras parties. Theirs is this Sunday, Feb. 11, 2-10 p.m. Call 595-9956 for more on the brewery, or check sanctuarybrewco.com.
For more on the two rescue shelters involved in the event, check kindnessempire.com (333-0742) for Sweet Bear or Brother Wolf at 505-3440 and bwar.org.