Ah it’s that time of the year again, the NFL Pro Bowl. The National Football League’s effort to put on a exhibition game featuring the best players the game has to offer all on one field playing in beautiful Hawaii. Great idea right. However what is displayed on the field is a half assed snooze fest featuring the best players in the NFL who are not in the biggest game of the year (Super Bowl if you didn’t know), not injured, or players who couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to skip out. The only real reason to even go is to get a trip to Hawaii and the swag bag they give out.
The Pro Bowl has become such a joke that after the upset win over the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Terrell Suggs told the Patriots to “Have fun at the Pro Bowl”.
The idea for the Pro Bowl is a fine one but it has a major problem. Football unlike basketball and baseball is a very tough sport to play and not play hard. When players play at 75% when they normally play games at 100% it is very noticeable and the product on the field suffers greatly. In football, you are taught to play 100 MPH until the whistle blows, hit the opposing players hard, and do whatever you can to get the win for your team. But its very difficult to keep that mentality when the atmosphere surrounding the game is all about relaxing and having fun rather than taking off someones head.
One major problem for the Pro Bowl is the possibility of injuries. Because football is a full contact sport, injuries always happen. So no team wants their best player to get injured in a meaningless exhibition game. And no player wants to get injured in a meaningless game and have the chance that the start to their next season for their actual team could be in jeopardy. As players like Alex Smith can tell us, getting injured and giving up your spot to another could have you looking for a new team. As a fan the only reason I would watch any part of the Pro Bowl would be to make sure players on my favorite team got through the game injury free.
Unlike the MLB, NBA, or NHL, the NFL’s all-star game is at the end of the season either the week before or the week after the Super Bowl. Some players are angry for making the playoffs but falling short of the big game and playing in an exhibition game is the last thing they want to do. Other players who missed the postseason have not played since week 17, almost a month ago, and its tough to get their motors running again for a meaningless game. There is no real ideal placement for the Pro Bowl to get the fans and players excited.Put in in the middle of the season like other sports and it would be tough to move the schedule of teams around it and the fact that players who did not get chosen to play would be getting basically another bye week in an already grueling season. Playing the game after the Super Bowl makes the game have no real excitement, no intensity between players, its basically like watching a walkthrough practice with pads on.
The players often show up but never too much on the field. The idea of defense is non existent, which is why in back to back years the winning team has put up 50 plus points on the board. The offensive and defensive lineman are just there for show, not hitting each other too hard and not trying to get the quarterback or running back with much drive. The game breaks down into basically a 7 on 7 drill. Some players don’t even bother showing up, citing injuries as reasons to miss the game. For the 2013 Pro Bowl there will be 31 alternates playing for players either injured, in the super bowl, or who didn’t want to show up. All 3 quarterbacks for the NFC team chosen had to be replaced as well as several voted starters.
Even players and the commissioner of the NFL have realized the Pro Bowl is a pretty big embarrassment to the game. On October 24, 2012 in a interview with a Sirius XM show, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had second thoughts about the Pro Bowl taking place this year saying that if the players did not play more competitively, he is “not inclined to play it anymore”. Future Hall of Fame member Peyton Manning is begging players to play hard in the Pro Bowl, calling the play in the past few years “unacceptable”. If players and the head of the NFL have to ask players to get excited, put effort in and play hard in this game, maybe this game should no longer exist.
The Pro Bowl has become a glorified two hand touch game played in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its a joke to watch which is why hardly any NFL fans actually take the time to watch the game. The game is this sunday and I doubt I will even watch for a quarter and my favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, has three players in it thanks to the alternates rule (Running Back C.J. Spiller, Defensive Lineman Kyle Williams, and Safety Jairus Byrd). It may be time to either change up the format of the Pro Bowl drastically or just let it die entirely.
Oh and as for my pick? Ah… give me the AFC winning 76 to 62.
by Andrew Isaac