Pro Bowl Continues Era of Irrelevance

Marshall Hastings
Special Projects Manager
@Marsh_Hastings

pro bowl
Photo courtesy of NFL.com

It’s that awkward Sunday at the tail end of the National Football League season. For the past three weekends, us football fans have feasted like kings on Saturdays and Sundays. We were spoiled with four games a weekend through the Wild Card and Divisional rounds, before getting a great AFC Championship game and a laughable NFC title match.

But yet here we sit, staring Super Bowl 50 dead in the eye. The Super Bowl that has been the talk of the entire season, with golden 50-yard lines and looks through history, is sitting there, waiting to be claimed. But just like the guy that can only stare at the pretty lady at the bar and never talk to her, all we can do is just that: stare at Super Bowl 50.

The Pro Bowl. The game that means nothing yet the media outlets of the world, ESPN in particular, try to sell it off as a real football game, just like Nikki Minaj tries to sell off the fact that she’s never had plastic surgery. Sure.

And so every year, we are stuck in the endless thought of why does this game even exist? Sure, the players and their families get an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii, and the opportunity to make a couple more hundred thousand dollars, but for the fan, what are we really getting out of it? The players don’t care enough to really get down and play a real game of football, and we’ve been delegated to creating an old-school playground-style draft to make the teams in a last ditch effort to stir up some excitement.

Unlike the MLB, where the All Star game actually means something (not that it necessarily should), the Pro Bowl is just an extra excuse to watch football. Heck, we used to watch the Pro Bowl the weekend after the Super Bowl but the NFL moved it up a week so that more fans would want to watch it. Kind of like when you’re parents made you eat all your vegetables before you got dessert. If I do it, I’m not going to be happy while I do.

The NBA All-Star game is a running highlight, and there really isn’t anything wrong with that, while the NHL has moved to a 3-on-3 game which should make the game much more exciting. Which begs the question, what should the NFL do?

At one point in time, the NFL used to have mini games like flag football, but when Robert Edwards, a prized rookie for the New England Patriots, managed to tear his ACL in a rookie flag football game, the mini games seemed to disappear. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no reason to watch a rookie coming off a 1,000 yard rushing season effectively end his career – Edwards nearly had to have his leg amputated and was told he wouldn’t be able to walk again. He played one more season in the NFL and three more in the Canadian Football League – but at some point there needs to be more appeal than just a meaningless football game.

The NFL could easily add mini games, like target practice for quarterbacks, or catching drills for wide receivers, but that would only result in a combine-type performance that fans don’t watch when the college players do it.

The league could follow the NHL and make the Pro Bowl a seven-on-seven game, but then you immediately eliminate the lineman and what skillset they posses. You can’t call it an all star game if all positions aren’t involved.

So it begs the question, is a Pro Bowl or showcase even worth it? The seven New England Patriot players selected to play in the game all declined their invitations. Every time a premier quarterback gets blindsided or a running back gets tied up, fans can only twinge and hope that they get up healthy. The players barely even take the game seriously. Heck, Sean Taylor may be the only player that ever actually tried to hit anyone in the Pro Bowl.

Why not just scrap the game and forget it ever happened? It’s at the end of the football season, both the fans and the players barely even want to be there, and the only way you can convince me it’s worth watching is if I get to see Odell Beckham Jr. make a one handed catch on every possession. The only thing still keeping it pumping is the fact that it’s Hawaii.

So let’s get rid of it. The beautiful girl has left the building. We aren’t eating the veggies. Just give us the Super Bowl.

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