Did you know that there is an NFL cartoon? One that is in active production? Did you know that this NFL cartoon is called NFL Rush Zone: Guardians of the Core or NFL Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians depending where on the Nicktoons website you happen to be pointing your eyes at any given moment?
I didn't know any of these things. But I suppose it was inevitable that the NFL -- the single most popular thing in America -- would end up being packaged in an even-more-exciting (read: actually exciting) way to children, who don't necessarily have the benefit of fantasy football to elevate professional football players to superhero status.
But in NFL Rush Zone, the kids are the superheroes. They're literally superheroes. Actual NFL players (and, hilariously, broadcasters) stop by to lend -- I dunno, credibility? -- to the enterprise, but the kids are the main stars of the show. That makes sense. As with the Rubik's Cube, when you make a fad into a cartoon (and yes, I'm trolling here), you have to make children the protagonists. It's important for both appeal and marketing to your target demographic. Projection: it ain't just a river in Egypt.
So here's as much backstory as I cared to look up: the group of kids in the cartoon serve as guardians over powerful "cores" that are stored in all 32 NFL stadiums. That's as far as I got and that's probably all we need to know. This premise, of course, opens an unbelievable can of worms, but I'm sure we'll get to all that in due time. For now, let's use the powers of ENHANCE to dive into one of the sub-2:00 clips of the show, which is pretty much all the Nicktoons website gives anyone to go on. It's barely possible to make sense of any of it, but we're going to muddle through the best we can.
Here is a clip entitled "There's Snow Place Like Home."
:01: Okay so hold up. Right off the bat: what the hell is that thing? (See banner image up above.) What in god's name am I looking at? Is that the LIVING EMBODIMENT of the San Diego Chargers? That's ... that's not what the Chargers mascot looks like, is it? Hang on a second.
/Googles "San Diego Chargers mascot"
/eye wash station
Okay, that's DEFINITELY not suitable for a children's cartoon. We accept your flesh-colored ball with arms coming out of its earholes and Bermuda shorts and flip-flops and Bret Hart sunglasses, Nickelodeon. Well-played.
Also worth noting (we suppose): it is snowing outside. In what is presumably San Diego.
:03: "The core is this way. We're gonna need all you've got to keep it safe." Okay, let's dive right into the first worm upended from the can that is the premise of this show.
There are these "cores of power," right? And there are 32 of them and they're housed at all of the NFL stadiums? And nefarious people want to use them for evil and virtuous people want to keep them safe? Okay, fine. So.
1. If you're trying to keep them safe, why would you build NFL stadiums on top of them? Or were they only unearthed and/or activated by the power of a bunch of drunk people yelling for bloodshed once a week?
2. If you discover these things exist, why would you just make like a service walkway right to them?
3. Doesn't it seem reckless to the point of criminality to continue to play football games in these stadiums if there are EVIL ROBOTS AND ALIENS constantly attempting to capture these cores?
4. What happens when the Vikings and Rams and Raiders (lololololol) get new stadium, what happens to the core? Does it magically go to wherever the stadium is? Does the core stay in the old, empty stadium and get imploded or whatever? Does the stadium remain standing to continue to house the core? There are a lot of questions and like zero answers here.
But I guess we're only three seconds into this video so we should probably move along. Probably.
:05: The main character's name is "Ish"? I don't care if that IS short for something, even I know that the kids use the word "ish" to mean something else entirely. Also lol he's a Chargers fan. Way to hamfistedly try to force the Chargers into relevance by subjecting the children to them, NFL. Too bad this won't work, either.
:12: "What's up with this weather?" asks Weirdfake Fauxhawk Von Wristband.
That's what we call EXPOSITION, kids! Also, not sure why Weirdface here is wearing a mustard-colored three-quarters-sleeve mock turtleneck under The Rock's ca. 2000 track suit.
:26: "Nobody messes with my Chargers!" lol okay, Ish. Nobody but like fully half of the AFC. Sorry, Chargers fans. I'll stop being so mean when NFL Rush Zone stops lobbing these softballs my way.
:28: Whoa, hey, now we get kids actually turning into superheroes. I'm sure the NFL doesn't want me to use the term "morphing," but come on now. This is somehow both the worst and the best animation that has been featured thus far. It also takes up a good chunk of time, so I'm sure they depict this exact sequence in every episode.
:32: Worth noting that there's a girl on this team. Let me take a wild guess: in the world of football superheroes, she's going to be the kicker, isn't she?
:50: A football-based team of six kids. I realize they can't have 11 kids, but come on. Did they arrive at six because no major sport uses six starters per side at once?
what the hell is "hockey"
:51: "IT'S TACKLE TIME!" Oh boy. Little light on the catchphrases here, NFL. What's next? "SHOTGUN, BANG, WHAT'S UP WITH THAT THANG"? "GET READY TO BE LONG-SNAPPED"? "NORV SMASH"?
:52: Laser hands?
Not sure how that really is an NFL thing. But I guess you can't really cut a robot with Rob Ryan's laminated play card. OR CAN YOU
:55: "FIRST AND TEN, LET'S GO IT AGAIN!" Ugh, no. I hate you, NFL kids.
1:00: No, you're doing it wrong.
See, you hit that guy with a giant icicle. That's ... that's really more of a baseball thing. In fact, it couldn't be further from a football thing, even if you DID break it off the goalpost.
1:05: I'm pretty sure that every single one of these would be called a chop block, even by a replacement ref.
You're doing a terrible job of being NFL superheroes, kids. You're also fighting incredibly dirty. What did these giant robots ever do to you?
1:13: Yep, she's a kicker. You can't see me, but I'm shaking my head sadly.
1:20: The main bad guy's name is "Wildcard"? Oh my goodness. Boy is THAT an indictment of the modern NFL -- by the NFL themselves. This show should be called The Self-Loathing NFL and What Are We Supposed to Do With All This Money?
1:28: Okay, let's get our first look at Wildcard.
What's wrong; did the Bicycle company prevent you from going with a playing card theme? This villain couldn't be more generic if it was hanging on a peg at the Thrifty with a backing card reading SPACE ENEMY.
1:37: Wildcard says that if he can't have the core, nobody can. He pushes a button that activates something on the robot, prompting one of the five interchangeable faceless boys to say, "A blinking red light is never a good sign." Obviously this guy's never had to get an inebriated Brian Dennehy off an awards show stage.
1:44: The robot explodes, but the explosion is so weak that it DOESN'T EVEN KNOCK THE ICE OFF THE GOALPOST IT WAS LEANING AGAINST. Way to go, Wildcard. You can't even scratch the padding around a goalpost with your doomsday device. Good luck getting those cores.
This is why everyone hates the wild card.