I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the NFL’s announcement that they are going to hold the Pro Bowl this January. Once again, it will be held in Hawaii the week between the NFC and AFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl.
On the one hand, there is something traditional and familiar about the Pro Bowl. It serves as a reward for the game’s top players who don’t qualify to play in the Super Bowl and for many fans, it is a last chance to see the best players on our favorite teams before the long, off-season without football officially gets underway. The players get an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii and get to spend the time with their peers and families.
But there are still some problems associated with the Pro Bowl and it doesn’t seem like they are going away any time soon.
The biggest question still surrounds the quality of the game. The rules themselves limit strategy with no blitzes allowed and defenses only permitted to play certain formations. The fact that the players are not all that familiar with each other limits offenses to fairly basic formations and plays.
With NFL players now making large salaries, clearly, nobody wants to get hurt in what amounts to an exhibition game and the amount of money the winning team receives as compared to the losing team is not enough to truly motivate modern day NFL players to truly give an all out effort.
In addition, it’s tough to get passionate about the outcome of the game. I mean, does the average Patriots, Browns or Raiders ran care that much if the AFC wins the game? Ditto for Giants, Cowboys or Packers fans if the NFC wins.
Finally, let’s face it, it’s not that big a deal to see this group of NFL players together. Sure, in the 60s or 70s, at most we would see three games a week and a few minutes of highlights on the local news or the halftime show of Monday Night Football. But now, every NFL game is available as part of the NFL Sunday Ticket package and highlights are shown over and over and broken down in great depth between games. Heck, the NFL now has it’s own TV network dedicated to football coverage 24/7. Further analysis and highlight coverage is available on the Internet. Seeing all these talented players on the field together is still nice, but it’s not special like it was 30 or 40 years ago.
If there is minimal strategy, indifferent players who aren’t looking to get hurt and no passionate rooting interest, then watching the game becomes difficult. I have been a football fanatic since the age of five but I can’t remember the last time I watched more than 15 minutes of a Pro Bowl.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was embarrassed by last year’s Pro Bowl and the obvious lack of effort put forth by the players. While right now it’s nice the game will be played for at least one more season, the problems associated with the game remain.