The truck arrived at JerryWorld on Thursday evening carrying 82.5 gallons of slime and a custom-designed slime tank.
That’s 688 pounds of slime, for those keeping track at home.
CBS Sports and Nickelodeon aren’t merely aiming to recreate the Emmy-winning production they coordinated for last year’s debut NFL wild-card game on Nickelodeon broadcast. They’re rounding into postseason form.
“These people are so professional but so funny at the same time,” 12-year-old Nick star Dylan Gilmore, who will report from the sideline, told USA TODAY Sports. “They always trippy. They always lit.”
The Nickelodeon broadcast, featuring the San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys game Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, will combine augmented reality, carefully curated animation and the trademark heaping of slime as parent company CBS aims to engage parents and fans alike. Past highlights like virtual end zone slime explosions and the image of SpongeBob between the uprights will return. But they have evolved.
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“This time SpongeBob is changing expression on the field goal,” CBS Sports coordinating producer Shawn Robbins told USA TODAY Sports. “He starts off in this pensive sort of mood and is waiting for it. If it goes in, he gives you a little smile. Wide, doesn’t make it, he has a frown.”
Expect a virtual slime monster to grow from the stadium turf. Expect an augmented-reality Nick blimp to drift through the broadcasted air. Even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are joining the fun as the animated characters of choice to represent NFL NextGen Stats replays. But producer, broadcaster and players know: Fans’ most pressing questions will center around the network’s famous green gunk.
“It’s Nickelodeon. It’s in our blood,” 15-year-old Nick star Gabrielle Nevaeh-Green, a member of the broadcast booth team, told USA TODAY Sports. “You can’t have a broadcast on Nick without slime.”
Are Cowboys players willing to dunk?
“That’s kind of funny,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “Getting slimed after the game? Yeah, I’d be willing to take one for the team.”
The NFL is more slime-friendly than fans might expect from a league whose acronym is sometimes mocked as the No Fun League. League officials have supported slime antics in broadcast meetings with CBS. Players have asked for it. And last year, entering the NFC wild-card game in New Orleans, Saints coach Sean Payton said he was willing to be slimed if his team won.
“I would only enjoy being slimed if we won,” Payton said. “I will officially volunteer to be slimed if we win.”
After the Saints defeated the Bears, he stayed true to his word.
Slime infiltrated the league further this season when the NFL agreed to a kid-friendly show, “NFL Slimetime.” The show awarded an NVP – Nickelodeon Valuable Player – each week, shipping an orange Nickelodeon blimp trophy to Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, then Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, and then Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. But it was Week 4, when Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott enjoyed NVP honors, that producers realized what they had been missing.
Prescott’s offensive linemen presented the box to him after practice at Cowboys headquarters. The quarterback carefully removing the blimp trophy from its green-confetti-filled wrapping. He hoisted it proudly.
“We do need some slime,” Prescott remarked.
That moment was “like a lightbulb” to the CBS crew, Robbins said. The remainder of the season, trophy boxes included slime jars. From Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins, players invited the baths.
On Sunday, the CBS team will be ready and armed should players or coaches agree to slime. The aforementioned 82.5 gallons of slime arrived with a mess-free dunk tank that enables producers to drench willing victims without risk of slime wrecking a stadium or turf.
Prescott, Elliott and star rookie linebacker Micah Parsons each said, when asked by USA TODAY Sports, that they are willing to be slimed if they win. Only receiver CeeDee Lamb hesitated, initially saying yes before saying he changed his mind to a “game-time decision.” Viewers at home and in the stadium will see the purple-and-green striped rods of the dunk tank on the sidelines Sunday. The Nickelodeon team received approval to park the slime tank on the field near the eastern end zone to “create an ever-looming presence of somebody getting slimed.”
The slime supply is sufficient to get creative, so long as slimees adhere to one rule: no slime suit.
“Absolutely not,” Robbins said. “There’s no slime protection. No way.
“If you want cred in the Nick world, you got to take the sliming.”
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Beyond the tank-contained messy shenanigans, Nickelodeon viewers are in for a visually appealing and technologically advanced broadcast. Producers are intentional not to mar the actual football, rather to create a “co-viewing experience” in which parents can teach kids the rules of a complicated game in a more inviting and familiar tone. Nick’s Young Sheldon will explain penalties – he has prepared 10 kid-friendly PSAs compared to last year’s five – rather than CBS rules analyst and former NFL official Gene Steratore. And the drifting blimp may announce the score at times in place of the massive JerryWorld JumboTron.
But “we’re going to be really respectful of the game,” Robbins said. “If you came to this game, you could watch this game and not be mad at us that we ruined the football for you.”
Former NFL star Nate Burleson and CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle will return to the booth with Nevaeh-Green, while Gilmer – known as Young Dylan to the network – joins as sideline reporter. He concedes he is an Eagles fan gunning for the 49ers “because you know, the Eagles and Cowboys, they have a little bit of a problem” but he nonetheless is “excited to see Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Nick Bosa battle it out vs. Dak, Amari, CeeDee, Trevon Diggs and Ezekiel Elliott.”
Nevaeh-Green says the conversation will be organic as she taps into curiosity to consider questions kids may want answered. Cowboys and Niners players filled out surveys for color commentary that may feature their favorite ice cream flavor and emoji.
The CBS and Nickelodeon crews are eager to see who wins NVP after a social media campaign clinched the title for Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky last season, despite Trubisky’s Bears losing 21-9 and performing statistically inferior to then-Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Robbins and CBS embraced what they acknowledged was likely an internet joke.
“It definitely wasn’t what we intended,” Robbins said. “But so what? You’re telling me people had fun watching this game and engaging with the game?
“Then to me, we did our job that day.”
Gilmer is betting NVP goes to a receiver in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb or Deebo Samuel while Nevaeh-Green is rooting for Prescott.
Robbins envisions Prescott pulling the strings to dump slime on Cowboys head coach McCarthy, a 2022 twist on a coach’s Gatorade bath.
“Slime is for winners,” Robbins insists. “It’s Nick’s highest honor. It’s a celebratory thing.”
If McCarthy oversees his first playoff win as Cowboys coach, would he consent?
“I don’t even know what ‘slimed’ is,” he said Thursday. “You’re going to have to help me out here.
“Well, hey: anything for the children. I’ll just say that.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.