The Pro Bowl won’t die

Ben Roethlisberger enjoying the Pro Bowl.

The NFL had the opportunity to show that quality is infinitely more important than profit, and demonstrate their understanding that forcing fans to pay for a gimmick doesn’t cultivate future interest.

Instead, the league chose dollars and flag football over maintaining respect, and the Pro Bowl will still live on.

After flirting with scuttling the Pro Bowl, the league has kept a game that no one cares about on life support, announcing that the league’s annual all-star showcase–and I use the word very, very loosely–will sadly still exist.

Brace for the press release, and the well-crafted streams of soft-tossed executive speak:

“The players have made it clear through the NFL Players Association that they would like the opportunity to continue to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson. “We will support the players on this initiative to improve the Pro Bowl. We have had many discussions with the players in recent years about the Pro Bowl and they recognize that the quality of the game has not been up to NFL standards. We look forward to working with the players toward the goal of improving the competitiveness of this season’s game.”

“The players believe that the Pro Bowl is an important tradition,” said NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth. “We worked hard with the league to make sure the best players in the NFL are honored for their achievements on the field.”

No suggestion is given as to how exactly the game will be improved. Pie, meet sky.

There was also thought of moving the Pro Bowl to New Orleans (sorry about destroying your team, but here’s a crappy game you don’t care about). That idea was also scrapped, and now the game can quite appropriately stay in Hawaii, the land of sand, sun, and relaxation, because there’s nothing more laid back than the product we see on the field in Honolulu each January. The game will also stay in it’s usual slot during the Sunday prior to the Super Bowl as it continues in its effort to kill our enthusiasm for pigskin a week before the league’s marquee game.

I’ve written this before, and I’ll keep writing it until the Pro Bowl is finally killed. I’m paid to write about the NFL, and that results in thinking about football during every waking hour. Even two weeks ago when I was on vacation in Cuba I was sipping some foreign drink from a coconut and mentally forecasting the season that Peyton Manning may or may not have. It’s not healthy.

Yet I don’t watch the Pro Bowl, and I haven’t in at least 10 years.

Professional sports all-star games in general aren’t marketed towards anyone over the age of about 15. Like cartoon rabbits that talk and trucks that transform into fighting machines, they’re a child’s toy aimed squarely at minds that think it’s super cool when every awesome player from a given sport is on the field/ice/court at the same time.

But while they’re all terrible, the NFL is unquestionably the worst. The hockey all-star game may be little more than shinny, but a goalie still has to stop a shooter. The NBA all-star game is played without defense too, but the skill required to hit a shot still remains. Baseball’s mid-summer classic is the most authentic, because pitcher vs. batter matchups can’t be dumbed down.

When defense is stripped away from football, the core and essence of the sport is erased too. Good throws and catches lose their authenticity, because without stiff, pro-level defense, the challenge is entirely gone.

It’s not football anymore. It’s a few guys playing catch, and it’s an embarrassment.