Millions of Americans gathered around their televisions on Feb. 2 for one of the year’s most significant sporting events. No, not the Super Bowl. But the Puppy Bowl XVI.
The Puppy Bowl XVI, a modified football game with puppies instead of people on Animal Planet, draws about 10 million viewers yearly. Competitors are carefully selected from across the country to participate in hopes of winning admiration and adoption. At viewing parties, many fans seek an alternative Super Bowl Sunday — and it was no different in one restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, the Wilson.
This year, 96 puppies competed in the televised event that served as the backdrop for the Wilson’s own Puppy Bowl, which featured 10 puppies.
The restaurant’s mascot is a purple bulldog, and they even have a menu just for dogs all year long. At the Wilson, no one keeps score. The dogs focus on socializing with people while the Puppy Bowl plays in the background.
All of the puppies in the national event end up being adopted. Dogs are placed on a small indoor football field in Maryland and attempt to bring toys across the touchdown line to score. The pups are cheered on by goats, with pom-poms and all. The games last two hours, premiering before the Super Bowl and are replayed during the football game.
In New York, a company called Puppy Party brought the three or four-month-old dogs to the restaurant from pet stores in New York. The dogs return after the events.
“Its good for them to be played with,” Denisse Garcia from Puppy Party said. “When it comes to adult parties, we hear a lot of baby talk. Its a de-stressor. It’s pure serotonin.”
This year, 35 people made reservations with the Wilson to play with the pups, but the restaurant also took several walk-ins.
Many in attendance came to escape the intensity of sports bars.
“I was trying to find a scene that was not your standard bro-ey, meat-heady scene,” Mattie Sandler said. “It’s something more low-key and just nice.”
The puppies leave The Wilson early enough for attendees to catch the other big game.
Rich Pascale, bar manager, and Jets fan is excited about the night’s kickoff. “We are football fans who love puppies,” he said.