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On the field, the four-legged fur balls of the Hallmark Channel's Kitten Bowl III were all business.
But off? Well, let's just say there were some impurr-prieties dogging these feline paw-thletes.
"Sometimes we get into an issue or two. They tend to like to really delve into the catnip. And that type of thing sometimes gets a little out of control," quipped Boomer Esiason. He is the Feline Football League commissioner for the Super Bowl Sunday event on Feb. 7.
It was Esiason's second turn as commissioner. He kept his tongue firmly in cheek in fending off any appearance of influence peddling this time around. After all, he is fielding his own team of kittens. They are the Boomer Bobcats.
"I'm not like that. I'm above all of that, and my quarterback Ben Roethlis-purrger -- we like to call him Big Ben -- is just so cute and cuddly. I'm telling you, he's going to knock everybody's socks off this year."
Big Ben's human doppelganger is Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.
In addition to Esiason, Hallmark got some help from host Beth Stern and the North Shore Animal League America. The league supplied nearly 100 rescue kittens to fill up Hallmark's bite-size football field. It was decked out with scratchy goalposts. There were plenty of cat toys to keep the action moving when the event was taped in October.
All of the tiny footballers were later adopted. A few were taken home for fostering by Stern herself. Her husband is Howard Stern. He is a radio personality. In addition, he is the official cat namer of their family. The Sterns have six resident felines and a steady stream of fosters.
Beth Stern, a spokeswoman for North Shore Animal League, is the master of the cat-human selfie on Instagram. Her secret?
"With the selfie I have to look good, of course. So I always have to put the iPhone up high. But I can never get a bad angle of the kittens," she said.
Human wranglers ringed the elevated Kitten Bowl set. They sent little slackers trying to escape back on the field. Hydration came in metal water bowls on the sidelines. A couple of handy litter boxes were nearby.
Esiason is an NFL most valuable player and four-time Pro Bowl quarterback. He was happy to help out worthy kittens. But back home, it's all about the dogs. He has two. He used to have a cat, a Himalayan with bright blue eyes called Frankie. It was named for his college roommate.
He said he's got nothing but love for the adorable, feisty participants in the Kitten Bowl.
"The kitten players," Esiason offered, "are so much easier to deal with than human players."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why isn't the Kitten Bowl held in the summer?
Write your answers in the comments section below