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Super Bowl LI: Cooper is most popular Manning on Fox’s red carpet

Cooper Manning attends Super Bowl LI Opening Night at

Cooper Manning attends Super Bowl LI Opening Night at Minute Maid Park on Jan. 30, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Credit: Getty Images / Bob Levey

It was Super Bowl Sunday, so naturally by midafternoon a Manning brother was trending nationally on Twitter.

Sure, it was the Manning brother who is tied with Lady Gaga in career Super Bowl rings, but that’s OK, because when it comes to the many, many television hours before the big game, anything that breaks the tedium is welcome.

And so it was when Cooper Manning, older brother of Peyton and Eli, took to the Fox red carpet on Sunday wearing a tuxedo. He encountered actor/producer Mark Wahlberg, who is from Boston and a Patriots fan.

Said Cooper, “The Falcons going to do it today?”

Wahlberg said . . . nothing. He merely glared.

“Things are off to a good start,” Manning said.

Wahlberg: “I’m just glad your little brother’s not here, so we’re in good shape.”

Manning: “Normally, people don’t have a problem with ‘E,’ but you have a little hostility here.”

Wahlberg: “I have a major problem with those two fluke plays and ruining our perfect season . . . But we’re here, and I have the utmost respect for him.”

OK, so it was a little goofy, but again, those of us who watch pregame shows, which kicked off on the NFL Network at 9 a.m., can’t be choosy.

The official 4 1⁄2 hours of Fox’s pregame largely were formulaic, which is not a slight. The afternoon slogs on the three networks that rotate Super Bowl coverage are formulaic by design.

The point is to eat up a few hours, rack up decent ratings, promote Fox shows and collect loose advertising and sponsorship change to help pay the NFL rights fees. Pretty harmless.

Fox had interviews with the quarterbacks — Tom Brady said, “Hell, no!” when Terry Bradshaw asked whether he might walk away if the Patriots win — the halftime act, the president, some Xs and Os and some local flavor. Analysts for both Fox and the NFL Network donned space suits during their visit to Houston.

Fox analyst Howie Long narrated a piece on him and his son, the Patriots’ Chris Long, which was nice.

There was added intrigue surrounding the now-traditional Super Bowl Sunday interview with the president, as it was Donald Trump’s first turn, and he is friendly with the Patriots’ owner, coach and quarterback.

Fox preceded the interview with a piece on the seasonlong controversy and debate sparked by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit and later kneel during the national anthem.

At the end of that segment, Joe Buck said: “This is indisputable: Like him or not, agree with him or not, Colin Kaepernick has done one thing. He has started a real conversation on this topic, something that’s much needed. And for that, he gets a lot of credit.”

During his interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump said, “I like Bob Kraft, I like coach [Bill] Belichick, and Tom Brady is my friend.” When O’Reilly noted all three have been criticized by some opponents of Trump, he said, “Yeah, they’re taking a lot of heat, but you know what, they’re also getting a lot of popularity out of it.”

When asked for a prediction, Trump said, “We’ll see what happens, but you have to stick up for your friends, right?” Pressed for specifics, he picked the Patriots to win by eight points.

Thirteen years after Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in the same stadium, Fox used a five-second delay for its pregame and halftime to guard against any surprises.

But enough about all that. Back to early afternoon on the red carpet, where Manning was interviewing celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

Said Cooper, “Can I call you ‘Gordo?’ ”

Said Ramsay, “Forget Gordo. C’mon. [It’s] Gordon.”

Said Manning, “Yeah, we’re off to a good start right here.”

New York Sports