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.

Comments (6)

  1. while you personally may want the game to die off, players and fans want to see it. espn insider Adam Shefter just tweeted this:

    “Game not great, but numbers talk: Pro Bowl was highest-rated all-star game of any sport last year. People complain about it – and watch it.”

    ratings speak louder than your personal hatred for the game.

    • The Pro Bowl ratings and the fact that somehow 12.5 million people watched last year are simply a reflection of football’s juggernaut status when compared to North America’s other major professional sports leagues. The NFL could replace the players with kittens and/or cans of paint on Sundays in the fall, and people would still watch. You’re making the proverbial apples to oranges comparison.

      What Schefter fails to mention in those neat and tidy 140 characters is that the Pro Bowl’s 2012 TV viewership dropped by 8.1 percent from 2011. If ratings speak louder than me, then they’re saying that the Pro Bowl sucks.

  2. “The NFL could replace the players with kittens and/or cans of paint on Sundays in the fall”

    and this whole time i thought you were talking about just the pro bowl. it reads like you hate football, the nfl’s success and anyone else who enjoys watching the sport. and … kittens? cans of paint? now look who’s speaking of the proverbial apples to oranges comparison. frankly, the comparison reads nothing more like an amatuer “journalist’s” defensive attempt to justify his previous words. obviously, you are just not a real fan of the game (deny that if you will; as i said, it reads as such).

    you’re not going to convince anyone that the nba doesn’t put its weight into its asg, and that major league baseball’s asg is not a pastime staple of the summer. either could draw its audience to those viewership numbers. basically, when you say the pro bowl sucks, you’re saying the other major sport all-star games suck (i actually wouldn’t happen to necesarily disagree with that in the nba’s case), but even if you’re not a true football fan who enjoys the pro bowl, you should identify that there are many more who, in fact, do, and you certainly do not speak for them.

    • “They’re all terrible” — me, on North America’s professional sports all-star games.

      You were clearly thrown by my kittens and paint cans quip (we like to keep it light around here, because anger scares me), so I’ll repeat my point, and put it more plainly. The NFL is easily the most popular North American sport, and therefore viewers will religiously watch anything associated with the league, which is why ratings don’t reflect the quality of the Pro Bowl.

  3. The Pro Bowl sucks. People who actually like football agree.

  4. I watched every minute of the Combine but the Pro Bowl doesnt even enter my mind. If you dont like it, dont watch it, dont read about it, dont report about it. Pretty simple, really. It’s the Pro Bowl, one giant boys weekend for those guys that didnt make the Superbowl.

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