The Pro Bowl. Might as well be coined the Pro Bowel. Making an elaborate rant on such an event is easily done, if not redundant. I’d be out of mind if I were to try to spin that the Pro Bowl has lasting qualities, and harbors significance each and every season.
If I were to think back on a time that I enjoyed watching the Pro Bowl in its entirety, it would place a date on me that I don’t wish to discuss here. It’s not time for that. I do however remember that it used to mean something. If your favorite team’s players were selected, you couldn’t wait to see them in either their red or blue jerseys, with miss-matching helmets. Now it’s just a game, an exhibition, an advertising billboard for what’s to come in the Super Bowl the following week. During the God awful pre-game festivities, there were graphics of nothing but the two teams who were to battle it out next week in Indianapolis, the Patriots and Giants. The last I checked neither of those two squads had anyone in the Pro Bowl due to the rule that if you make the Super Bowl, you’re no longer involved in the travel to Hawaii. That is something the league got right.
I would even go so far as to say that individuals that are participating in the playoffs have a real incentive to do well. The playoff bonus money? Maybe. The glory that comes with being a world champion and forever engrained into the professional football landscape? Perhaps. But not having to go to the Pro Bowl and function in a complete farce has to be high on the list. Picture Tom Brady or Justin Tuck saying “YES! We’re going to the Super Bowl! Hot damn, I don’t have to go to the Pro Bowl now! Yeeeeeaaahhhhh!” Doesn’t sound that far fetched, does it?
All-Star games are no longer a novelty. The NBA All-Star game is almost as bad, but they don’t play defense in the real games as it is. Baseballs mid-summer classic is ok, but even that is too structured. I would be embarrassed to be a lineman playing in the Pro Bowl on either side of the ball. We understand that no one wants to get hurt in a game that means absolutely nothing, but they might as well just play 7 on 7 without pads. Offense is fun, but real football is better.
My suggestion for next year is simple. If most real football fans get on board with this, I think we have something to build on. First, keep it in Hawaii. The NFL is nothing if it’s not traditional. Second, get rid of the stars. Of course everyone wants to see Drew Brees, Tony Gonzalez, Ray Lewis, and Brian Dawkins, but what good does that do if you can’t see them play how they would normally play? I’d love to see Dawkins light someone up, but it’s never going to happen. Why not let the mediocre players participate in this game? Stay with me here.
If you allowed some of the mid-level guys, some that are struggling to make a name for themselves, and a couple of aging vets to be the leaders, you’d have one helluva game. Think about it. Those guys would basically have nothing to lose. It would be their own spotlight for one night out of the year. Maybe instead of Matt Flynn having a record setting game in a contest that meant nothing, he’d be playing for his contract with all eyes on him. You don’t think the egos of these wouldn’t make it fun? Of course it would. There is still a risk for major injury, but if you shine in a game like that, you just wrote your own ticket and you can visit Hawaii whenever you want. The guys who do get hurt, or sustain a career ending injury didn’t belong there in the first place. Think of it as weeding out the weak.
My idea may be a little off kilter, or even barbaric, but I think it would work. That type of football match would leave me watching and paying closer attention than I have in many, many years.
It certainly would hold me from turning the traffic channel on and listening to the computerized voice tell me freeway times. (Yes, I did that.)