When it comes to the Pro Bowl, a few things come to mind. The first is Sean Taylor vs. Brian Moorman (below), the second is Hawaii, and the third is how it is absolutely the worst all-star game in professional sports. This year it will not feature the MVP, runner-up, and a host of top flight guys who are just too worn out from the season. You know the show Pros vs. Joes? The Pro Bowl features the Joes right now. That is not to say that there isn’t talent at the Pro Bowl, but try to imagine the NBA All-Star game without Kobe and LeBron, or the MLB All-Star Game without Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright etc. Right now the Pro Bowl lacks legitimacy, entertainment, and is barely football. So basically, it has nothing. It is like getting teeth pulled, except nothing is achieved by watching the Pro Bowl. It is the same length as a regular game except literally nothing is on the line. The quarters are still 15 minutes, but they feel longer than Greg Oden’s………. arms. Is there a way to fix it? Yes, but the NFL will not like it. Mr. Fix-It is at it again, so get ready, or this will happen to you…
Problems: Boring, does not really resemble football, too far away for people to attend. There are more but you have to start somewhere.
Imagine you have worked overtime every day this week at work, and your work is somewhere where it is expected that guys will get injured, dinged up, and do other things that may get them to miss work in the future. Every day at work is a potential risk to your career. You make it through the week uninjured, paid and fairly content. Your boss gives you the option to 1) come into work tomorrow, risk injury, and not get paid for it, 2) come into work for a small bonus but that you will be paid simply for being at the office, not for any work done, or 3) you can go home and relax for the weekend. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pro Bowl. In option one, the players run a risk for going and have no incentive to play hard, in option two, have incentive to go, but none at all to work hard or play hard, and the third option makes far too much sense to turn down. As an NFL player, why WOULD you go to the Pro Bowl? You can take your own trip to Hawaii, or Miami and not go to a practice while there. The system is inherently flawed for the NFL, so
it is no surprise that the game frankly sucks. now to get around to fixing it.
Ok, in fairness, the NFL has addressed the too far away thing by moving it to Miami this year with the Super Bowl, but they need to keep that up. However, in years like 2012 when the Super Bowl will by in Indy, reward the players with a trip to Hawaii. It has to walk the line between a reward and nearby, which is not easy, but definitely doable. We can consider this problem more or less fixed as long as the NFL can keep it up.
Alright, moving onto the boring part. This is going to be hard to fix completely, but it can happen. The first key is getting all the players there. Maybe include Pro Bowl bonuses in their contracts more often so they are compelled to show up. I do not think you can really fix the whole “players not playing hard” problem entirely so the NFL has to go to a different format. I am not sure if the players will like it, but judging from watching the Pro Bowl, they do not enjoy that either. I am proposing a 8 team tournament of 7v7 football.
The rosters would look like this:
- 1 QB
- 1 RB
- 2 Offensive Linemen
- Combination of 3 WRs and TEs
- 2 CBs
- 1 Safety
- 2 Defensive Linemen
- 2 LBs
This would expand the rosters a little, but in exchange for more Pro Bowlers, you get an 8-team tournament without fear of injury. Look, I do not like the idea of basically having a flag football tournament either because it does not look anything like football, but it takes away the risk of injury, and could be just an entertaining as guys going half-speed in pads. There is no easy solution to this Pro Bowl problem, this is just a possibility.
The problem with trying to fix the Pro Bowl by compensating players heavily for it is that you can get them to go, but you are paying them to go somewhere, play to not get hurt or do anything potentially dangerous like, oh I don’t know, maybe football. The NHL has the same problem since there is no checking or physical play, and it suffers for it. At least a flag-football-like setup would not even give the illusion of it being a physical game.
The boring problem is not easily fixed, but that is a possibility that could get players to play and add some sort of competition to the Pro Bowl. I realize you are probably saying, “Hey, you said looking like football was a problem earlier and you are making it look less like football.” Well that is what happens when you take a sport that is already grueling and injury-prone and try to get guys who just got done playing to play another week. It is like the work example from earlier, there is really no incentive for anyone. The NBA and MLB have had memorable all-star games and have tradition behind them. It means something to make those games, but the Pro Bowl is an after-thought. Part of it is that the others take part in mid-season, which would not work for football since there would be even less incentive. There is literally no logical time to play the game that make sense for players. Before the season, you are getting ready with the team and working together, mid-season you are focusing on the playoff race and next week’s opponent, not the Pro Bowl, and after the season everyone is tired. Frankly, the NFL might be better off without an all-star game, though I admittedly have no idea what the revenue numbers are for the game. I am addicted to sports and I have no intention of tuning into the game whatsoever.
There is no perfect solution, but they need to try something because the state of the Pro Bowl right now could not be
much worse. Flag football tournament sounds fun to me. It would lack hitting, but let’s be honest, so does the Pro Bowl. The game sucks, there is no getting around it. This solution does not make it great, just makes it suck a little bit less. If the NFL is not going to scrap the Pro Bowl, they need to make changes.
Just reading the word flag football should have tipped you off how bad the game is, but if you are unconvinced, tune in this Sunday and throw away three hours of your life. You will see players jogging, Miami (where you wish you probably wish you were), and you will see the best the NFL has to offer minus Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Jay Cutler (just kidding), Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Darren Sharper, Dwight Freeney, and so on, you get the picture. You would be better served doing any of the following: Learning how to score a Cricket match, figuring out why Arkansas and Kansas are pronounced differently, trying to figure out what a Hoosier is other than someone from Indiana, finding a reasonably priced beer at a sporting event, watching Arrested Development or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (seriously, not a joke, you should watch them), or counting to 1,000,000 while leaving out prime numbers.
Get it yet? If not, enjoy the game!