Even though the NFL Draft is officially upon us, it is never too early to consider any particular part of the NFL season. Hell, I saw NinersNation advertising their ticket trader selling tickets to the 49ers’ Week 2 match up with the Lions yesterday – an event almost five months away.
On my way to the dog park yesterday I flipped on 95.7 The Game to hear The Rise Guys discussing the Pro Bowl. Seeing as the brutality and danger of football has become a hot button topic recently, it comes as no surprise that the NFL is talking about doing away with the NFL’s sorry excuse for an All-Star Game. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that the commish is considering suspending the Pro Bowl as early as this season, a fact that is being met with surprise by few and disgust by even fewer.
Football, just like all other sports, is a game of skill. But unlike other sports, it requires a high level of intensity to extract it. By far the most violent and physically taxing of all sports, players in the NFL are simply done trying by mid-January — that is, unless a championship is on the other end of their effort. The Pro Bowl exists to honor the NFL’s best players for superlative seasons, but if they aren’t going to give it even a portion of their all in the Pro Bowl, why bother? Here are some reasons why the Pro Bowl exists, and why the world will keep spinning without it.
1. Honoring the stars
Fans love when their favorite players get recognition. They love the Pro Bowl voting and the debate surrounding whether or not their guys will make the cut. Doing away with the game doesn’t mean that this aspect will go away, it won’t. The All-Pro Team operates under this same formula. Players get selected to it, and yet no All-Pro game played. Keep the voting, honor the players, do away with the meaningless game in which Brandon Marshall scores 13 touchdowns because the cornerbacks don’t even pretend to cover him.
2. Jersey sales
Here’s another opportunity for the NFL to make a shiny nickel off of it’s product. We’ve all seen fans who show up to Candlestick Park wearing those blue and white Pro Bowl jerseys with “WILLIS” or “GORE” on the back. I can’t imagine enough fans buy those jerseys for the NFL to make a profit, but if they still want to produce and sell them, go ahead. You don’t need a silly gimmick game to market them. Create your Pro Bowl team and then advertise the jerseys on a commercial during NFL Live, the same way they sell World Champion shirts and hats after the Super Bowl.
3. Hawaiian vacations
The Pro Bowl has always been an opportunity for NFL players, their families, and some lucky Visa card holders to go to Hawaii. Why let a Pro Bowl cancelation stop that? Award the players who are selected with a week’s vacation to Honolulu (Joe Lacob approved), and simultaneously hold some kind of sponsored vacation raffle for the fans as well. Maybe even spice it up:
“Football fans! Visa and Buffallo Wild Wings have teamed up to send you and three friends to Hawaii for a week’s paid vacation! Stay at the luxurious Days Inn! Play hacky-sack with your favorite long snapper! Watch the Super Bowl at the best Hawaiian BBQ joint on the big island!”
If you’re putting money on the Pro Bowl, you have a problem. I love Blackjack and NFL point spreads as much as the next Gamblers Anonymous newcomer, but throwing 100 bucks on the AFC -13.5? I’ll pass.
5. Stuff for ESPN to talk about
The Pro Bowl falls on the week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl. I have little doubt that the mothership and the NFL Network would struggle to find story lines at that point in the season without the Pro Bowl.
Not to say that it was ever watchable to begin with, but the NFL’s Pro Bowl was anything but appointment television. At the snap, lineman have tickle fights with each other. Cornerbacks battle wide receivers with all the intensity of a race to the chow line at a retirement home. The atmosphere at the game had all the buzz and din of a Florida Marlins Wednesday noon first pitch at Sun Life Stadium. The players don’t care about the Pro Bowl, and neither do the fans. Put us out of our misery and cancel it.