Meet the Starting Lineup for the 2017 Kitten Bowl!

NEW YORK — The furry, fleet-footed pawthletes of Kitten Bowl IV didn’t exactly have the plays down pay on Wednesday at the taping of the annual cuteness fest that airs on the Hallmark Channel each Super Bowl Sunday.

Chaos did ensue, but it was all good as cameras rolled on a Midtown soundstage, with Beth Stern deftly juggling a few frisky critters during interviews promoting the event.

Stern, who is the wife of radio jock Howard Stern, is the big-hearted cat ambassador who works all year round with North Shore Animal League America, urging people to spay, neuter and release and even adopt some pets.

One of her on-camera companions, who is a little player with black fur, was more interested in messing up her perfect blond hair than talking pre-bowl ball.

“The friskier the better,” Stern admitted as she juggled the four-footed baller. “He loves me. They all love me. Who are we kidding?”

Meanwhile, NFL all-star Boomer Esiason, who is also known as the “comish” of the Feline Football League, was having some trouble of his own. With the cat puns flying as he shot promos on the set, the word “meowment,” as in, “We’ll be back in a meowment,” wasn’t going to happen.

Also having a bit of a day, along with good fun, was a NBC sportscaster by the name of Mary Carillo, a returnee to help call the big game despite a cat allergy that had her itching and reaching for hand sanitizer.

“There’s no other sport that I cover that I need to do this 472 times a day,” she giggled. “I’m a sport, but I love it. It’s my favourite of all the sports, watching kittens play because they don’t treat it like a sport. They treat it like a game, and they often don’t really seem to treat it like anything. They’re just hugely distracted by all of us.”

What about the rules? “Oh yeah, I’d like to see that rule book,” Carillo stated. “The rules for kittens are fuzzy. They seem not to have cracked open any of the rule books.”

Stern is an old pro at this. 2017 makes her fourth Kitten Bowl.

“We’ve got some fun additions to make it a little different but it’s just a hundred cats and kittens here ultimately are going to find loving homes at the end of this and that’s really what this is all about,” she stated.

During the halftime, watch for a “Cirque du Paw-leil” play on the theatric acrobatic shows usually performed by humans. And — gasp — a puppy band, which is complete with bite-size instruments and little hats.

The Sterns are huge foster parents to homeless kittens — more than 300 in all over the last couple of years. And Howard is the official name-giver of their temporary charges, and Beth is the hunter of permanent homes, but letting go isn’t easy.

“It’s the hardest thing in the world,” she admitted. “I think I’ve cried over 300 times. My husband gets so emotionally attached as well.”

Is Beth on board with the names Howard chooses? Absolutely she is, including a little dude named Downey who is among seven fosters they’re currently caring for.

“Robert Downey Jr. was over at our house and named this particular crew, so Howard was there approving the names that Robert Downey Jr. gave to this particular litter,” Stern stated.

Among the other names Downey himself picked: Chaplin, as in the silent screen comedian he portrayed in a movie of the same name.

They have six permanent kitty residents as well, including the recent adoption of a blind cat.

Esiason, who is also on his fourth Kitten Bowl, is more than a mere commissioner. Can they go all the way? If they stay away from the ’nip, he noted.

“Gotta stay away from the catnip,” he said with a deadpan expression. “I’ve told my little kittens that if I catch anybody lookin’ for the catnip, they’ll be sitting on the bench.

Watch the chaos unfolding right here!


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