Does anybody watch the Pro Bowl anymore? I can’t even remember the last time I watched it. I couldn’t tell you who played in or won any of the last 20 games. It’s a don’t care for me.
I will give the NFL credit for trying to make the game more relevant. When it was held in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl, it was a complete non-factor. Once the Super Bowl is over, people are done with football until late summer. By moving the game to the week before the Super Bowl and playing it at the same venue, they are at least giving it a fighting chance.
It’s still not worth watching. There are just too many problems with the game, including:
- Too much risk
Putting the most valuable, highly paid players at the risk of injury in a meaningless game just isn’t smart. Football, by its nature, is violent. Teams cannot afford to have their best players getting hurt, even if they have the off season to mend.
- It’s not real football
Because of the injury risk, the players don’t play the game at the same level they would during the regular season. As a defender, you do not want to be responsible for a causing a career-ending injury. It would probably be better (and smarter) to just turn it into a flag football game.
- No one cares
Now that they have eliminated the AFC vs NFC aspect of the game, it’s completely meaningless. There isn’t a “team” to root for, so the only reason to watch is for the skill aspect, which is watered down due to the risks of injury.
An alternative to the game
So, here’s what I would do instead of playing a Pro Bowl.
- Select players to the Pro Bowl using a combination of coaches, peers, media, and fans, weighted in that order. Being a Pro Bowler should be a recognition of excellence for players much like the Oscars, Golden Globes, or Emmys.
- Instead of playing a game, have a skills competition. Divide the players into four teams that are selected by eight former Pro Bowlers. The former Pro Bowlers should be different every year and include a mix of skill players and linemen.
- Run it at the site of the Pro Bowl in fan fest fashion the weekend before the Super Bowl. Get the fans involved in the proceedings by providing limited access to the players. Mike-up the players so the TV audience feels like they are part of the event. In addition to running the event live with reporters interviewing players between and during events, they should create a 1 or 2 hour version to air the day before, or day of, the Super Bowl.
Ideas for the skills competition
You would have to create different events for the different types of players. Here are some off-the-cuff ideas based on types of players.
For the skill-based athletes: 40-yard dash, football skills oriented obstacle course, cross-fit style strength event.
For linemen: Timed agility event or relay style race, bench press based on max weight and/or squat based on reps, a world’s strongest man style strength event.
For quarterbacks: A throwing accuracy competition
For kickers: a timed field goal event that requires making field goals from various stations
For punters: a distance event and/or inside-the-20 contest
Based on accumulated points to this point, the teams would then be seeded for a 7-on-7 tournament for the skill players and a tug-of-war competition for the lineman.
The team that accumulates the most points would be given a cash prize, or better yet, the NFL would donate money to each winning player’s charity of choice.
While I love the idea of a skills competition replacing the Pro Bowl, I don’t see it happening in the near-term. There’s probably too much money wrapped in long-term contracts and TV commitments. One can always hope. There’s at least a chance I’d watch a skills competition, because I don’t see myself ever watching the Pro Bowl.