Pro Bowl in Need of Overhaul… Again

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The weeks preceding the Super Bowl are full of anticipation each year. The game decides the champions of America’s most popular sport. Many who watch are just as concerned about the ads as they are the game, but one thing is certain: they will watch. With all the buzz around the Super Bowl, it is no surprise that what should be the second most exciting event in the sport is cast by the way side.

The NFL’s all-star game known as the Pro Bowl is the poorest excuse for an all-star game of the three major American sports. First of all, nothing survives in the shadow of the Super Bowl. Nothing. Placing the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl instead of after does not help influence people to watch. In this way, it doesn’t matter that these are the best players in the league or the worst. No one cares.

The placement before the Super Bowl makes matters worse as the best players that are in the Super Bowl will never go to the Pro Bowl in this format. When Peyton Manning breaks the single season record for touchdowns, we want to see him in the Pro Bowl.

Also, nothing is at stake. Players are paid a nominal amount compared to what they make, and there is nothing gained at the team level either. Unlike in baseball, no league is awarded home-field advantage, and players’ main concern is just to avoid injury.

A big problem that hurts the game is that you cannot move away from the team settings. Unlike baseball and basketball, watching individual players in football isn’t nearly as exciting. In football, watching the interactions between the teams are what excites fans. Adrian Peterson’s cuts are nowhere near as exciting when he isn’t simultaneously breaking the ankles of an opposing team’s safety. An equivalent to the dunk contest does not exist in football.

A few things could be done to fix these problems. First, raise the stakes. Players or teams need to see some kind of benefit. Better draft orders, higher bonuses, or possibly even higher salary cap would all encourage players to put in much more effort during the game.

The last and most important thing to change would be when the game is played. It should not be within the same month (let alone week) as the Super Bowl. The best time for an all-star game would be half way through the season. This would give fans time to see their favorite players play together at a time that isn’t overshadowed by playoffs.

As a fan, I want as much football as I can get, but I also want quality as well. I don’t want a late-season all-star game that looks like training camp walk-throughs. I want an exciting mix-up of the best players in the NFL playing a hard-fought game that has consequences.