By now, we have all heard fans, purists, and analysts recite ad nauseam about the absurdity of the NFL’s All Star Game – The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl – with those reasons being correctly enumerated. Even if the league itself continues to disagree. To be fair, the all star games of the four major North American sports (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) are unpleasant aesthetically, and downright awful if we are being honest.
NBA – no defence gets played, and is basically a glorified scrimmage. Before if the game was close, you’d see some intensity in the 4th quarter, but that hasn’t been seen in a while.
NHL – see the NBA, just omit the part regarding the 4th quarter.
MLB – maybe the best in terms of mimicking an actual game, other than the fact that starting pitchers go no longer than two innings, and coaches and managers are trying to get every player in the game.
The NFL is as bad as the NBA and NHL, and then notably worse. Where as in basketball and hockey players seem to want to be present and take part in the festivities, the same really can’t be said of football players. The numerous withdrawals, invitation declines, and “injuries” preventing them from playing. Injuries? Come on, it’s slightly above flag football.
Even the public has realized this. Ratings are consistently subpar and fan interest is low to the point that the NFL decided to change the format. They had retired using legends as head coaches and only select players – which occurred for three years from 2013-15 – as opposed to the previous AFC vs. NFC tilts, before returning to its original format. That “legends as coaches” configuration really didn’t help matters much, in fact it was more of a detriment, as it became more difficult to distinguish which players were on what team. With the AFC vs. NFC, it was more easily identifiable.
The league changed the timing of the game from a week after the Super Bowl (when nobody really cared because the season was over) to a week before it, during the bye week between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl. NFL marketing geniuses and their unlimited knowledge of said discipline – marketing – didn’t think the Super Bowl (and the NFL Honors award show which now occurs during Super Bowl week) wouldn’t overshadow it.
Speaking of the NFL Honors, wouldn’t it seem like a novel idea to honour the players who have earned Pro Bowl status for the season, and just part with the actual game? As mentioned, players don’t want to play the majority of the time, risk injury, and one would surmise that they would prefer the adulation – public or otherwise – of their “Pro Bowl” status, rather than traveling (now to Orlando, FL, during Super Bowl week, no less) and playing.
So is the money the Pro Bowl generates really that necessary for the NFL’s 32 team owners? The same owners who have and/ or found the money to pay NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell $31.7 million – his 2015 salary, the last time it was officially reported (now rumored to be in excess of $40 million annually) – do they really need this to fatten their already collective fat pockets?
One financial positive of this grandiose exhibition are the employment opportunities it produces for civilians. The ones behind the scenes who may rely on the income it provides. Now this could be seen as a legitimate reason, but the workers in Hawaii no longer receive the benefit of employment by the Pro Bowl when the game was moved to Orlando, Florida in 2016. But then again how much of a concern is that to the NFL owners, Commissioner Goodell, and the league’s brass? Probably not much.
It would seem best to just honour them with “Pro Bowl” status and call it a day. Just doesn’t seem like whatever positive that comes from playing the game itself is actually worth it.