I’m told the NFL Pro Bowl will be played next week. It’s supposed to give us our “football fix” for the open weekend between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. My only memory of watching the NFL’s version of an all-star game is Barry Switzer eating a hot dog on the sidelines in the middle of the game in the mid 90s. If one of the greatest football coaches ever doesn’t take the game seriously why should I?
I’m delighted that Trent Williams of my beloved Redskins made another Pro Bowl this year but even if I watched the game chances are I would never see him on TV unless he gets called for holding. In baseball’s all-star game you get to see every player on TV. I am not a hockey fan but I know that their all-star weekend includes skills contests and other opportunities to see your favorite player. I’m a huge NBA fan and I’m impressed how well the league has turned the game into a 3-day mid-season festival even if I am not really a fan of the dunk contest (the best dunkers never compete). The game itself is pretty much a snooze fest because everyone plays “James Harden defense”…hence the 156 to 144 typical score.
Football is much more of a team sport than the other 3 major U.S. sports. You’re throwing quarterbacks and receivers in the same mix who have no timing together. Same thing with offensive lineman who normally play with other guys that they are familiar with and their have timing down. The lack of familiarity of their teammates and the risk of a career ending injury is why players in the Pro Bowl go half-speed and play “James Harden defense.” In basketball, baseball and hockey a single player can be the catalyst to whether a team wins a particular game or not.
I mentioned earlier that when Barry Switzer was coaching the NFC in 1994 he was caught on camera eating a hot dog (or was it as sandwich…STOP THAT DEBATE!). You know who else doesn’t take the game seriously? The players! Vegas has so many prop bets for the Super Bowl I’m stunned there isn’t an over/under on how many players bail on the game and get replaced by someone else who is now magically called a “Pro Bowler.” The game used to be played the week AFTER the Super Bowl but most of the players in the big game bailed on the Pro Bowl because because they were worn out. Today Pro Football’s all-star game already has a black mark against it because it’s guaranteed that 4 to 8 of the best players from the current season won’t even be in attendance.
Back before $20 million contracts became somewhat common, players would gladly take a free trip to Hawaii during the dead of winter but I am pretty sure anyone being named to the Pro Bowl today can afford their own tropical vacation.
Speaking of those multi-million dollar contracts…that’s another reason players want nothing to do with another exhibition game. Why risk a career ending injury for a meaningless game? The players union fought expanding the regular season from 14 to 16 games and those games come with a check! I am old enough to remember when they played SIX preseason games! I am also old enough to remember when they used to play an exhibition game BEFORE the pre-season where they matched the previous season’s Super Bowl winner against college all-stars.
So I’ve laid out some amazing and well thought out points why they should “deep six” the Pro Bowl. Guess why it will never happen? Because the players won’t let the league get rid of it. Huh!? Yeah I know I said the players don’t take it seriously and often bail on the game despite being selected, but you know what they DO take seriously?? Money! A lot of players have bonuses written into their contracts if they get chosen to play in the game. A year ago there was a great article from CBS Sports about performance bonuses including getting named to the Pro Bowl.
Since the game probably isn’t going anywhere I’ll throw out a handful of ideas to liven up the game:
#1 No punting – no extra points. If I have to explain why, you probably don’t watch football anyway.
#2 Make it interactive. Everyone is watching TV while on their phones, why not let us vote…either on a play or perhaps a trivia contest involving the players on the field.
#3. Hold the game at Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. Stay with me here…you are going to LOVE this idea! How many games are delayed because of lighting? It happens more often in college football because most of those games are played at night. LSU lost a home game this past season because of lighting…but in a strange twist of fate gained a home game back because of the floods in South Carolina. If we can send the Jacksonville Jaguars to London ever year then we can send our very best players to Venezuela. Why Lake Maracaibo? Because of a weather phenomenon called “Catatumbo lighting” which produces more lighting than any other place on the planet. Didn’t know this article was educational as well as entertaining did you? You’re welcome! The game would get “American Idol” 2005 type ratings! We’d all watch for the same reason we watch NASCAR…for the potential carnage.
Bill Becker is the Founder and “Chief Creative Dude” of WeekendSportsUpdate.com. You can follow him on Twitter @weekendsportsup.