Monday, January 27, 2014

You Can Stop Now

The NFL played the Pro Bowl yesterday. Did you watch it? Just a glance? Were you curious at all? I'm betting a fair share of you flipped to it for at least a short while. I did. It was a a different thing this year with a fantasy type draft. It was different this year because teammates could now face each other in a game of all-stars. But it really wasn't.

It may have been different for the players, but as a casual fan it didn't change the game at all. Fans don't care if a Browns player can rag on his teammate for a big hit during the Pro Bowl. We can't relate to that. It didn't seem to matter either when the game was split by conference. I have never felt that extra sense of pride when the NFC won. Most years I don't know who won the game. This year included. I've had to click the link to the score at least 5 times.

You know when the Pro Bowl matters? When the rosters are announced. That's it. That's the only time fans really care. That's when the action is. Who got snubbed? Which team has more players? I love to see multiple Bears players go to the Pro Bowl, but don't actually care how they do in the game. I just hope no one shreds a knee and is lost for the next season. This year it was a close game yet ratings went down as the game got late. By now, no one really cares.

More than anything, this year's twist seemed very self indulgent for the NFL. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, but they were the only people that I saw associated with the Pro Bowl the last few weeks. Even ESPN's recap leads with the Hall of Famers. None of the current young stars like Nick Foles, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton seemed to be promoted. Why not? I don't want to see retired players, they're irrelevant.

There doesn't seem to be a solution to get casual fans like me interested in the NFL's version of an all star game. In looking through other professional leagues for an idea to make it interesting I found nothing. The NHL seems to change the way their All Star Game is played every few years. The NBA is more traditional with the East vs West format. But that game is entertaining. Baseball has serious stakes riding on its All Star Game.

That may be where Major League Baseball went right. Even though ratings were down for last season's Mid-Summer Classic, it still had more viewers than the Pro Bowl. It matters in baseball. The winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. There is serious incentive there. We are assured of seeing some great match ups because of that.

There's no real reason in the NFL for players to actually play in the game. Just getting named to the Pro Bowl kicks in contract bonuses. Why risk playing? Why not just name Pro Bowlers for each conference and give them a free trip to Hawaii?  They can choose when they want to take the trip. It's the getting named an All Star that matters. It's about recognition. If they just named the teams and didn't play we wouldn't have 10,000 injury replacements every season. Everyone is spared.

Fix the Pro Bowl? I'd rather just abolish it.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

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