The Major League Baseball All-Star festivities are fast approaching, and it got me thinking: which league’s All-Star festivities are the best?

Each league has a pretty similar approach to the festivities, but there are some differences.

Here is a breakdown of each league:

National Football League

  • Pro Bowl played in Hawaii each year the week before the Super Bowl.
  • Rosters voted on by fans, players, and coaches – each accounts for one-third of the vote.

Although the NFL has the least amount of extra festivities around the All-Star game, it draws higher television ratings than any other sport. The last Pro Bowl was reported to have 13.5 million viewers. Despite the high ratings, many fans (and media) were not fond of the game because, as the article previously linked puts it, players were “hitting each other as though they were having a pillow fight.”

National Basketball Association

  • Game takes place in February each year, around the half-way point in the season in a different venue each year.
  • Starters for Eastern and Western Conference teams are voted on by fans, rest of roster filled out by coaches vote (coaches cannot vote for their own players).
  • Dunk Contest, 3-Point Shootout, and other skills competitions accompany the game as part of the festivities.
  • Rookie-Sophomore game takes place.
  • Celebrity-Legends game takes place as well.

The NBA has done a good job in the last few years making the All-Star Weekend a celebration of the sport and its athletes while keeping fans connected to the festivities. Fans have a huge say in the Dunk Contest because voting for the champion is done via fans text messaging in their vote.

A professor of mine at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, Paul Swangard, often remarks about the high quality of the marketing done by the NBA, and told my class that they do it best based on their advertising, fan connection, and celebratory feeling.

Although not as lackluster as the Pro Bowl, the NBA All-Star game is not a true basketball game until the fourth quarter when the teams start to buckle down. Until then, it’s pretty much a playground game (usually), which can be fun to watch in its own regard.

Roster selection seems to be a happy medium in this case where fans control who starts but coaches control the rest of the roster. However, players are removed from the mix, which seems a little unfortunate since it is a celebration of the talent of the players.

Major League Baseball

  • Game played at a different ball park each season on second Tuesday in July (hence the nickname “Midsummer Classic”).
  • Starters determined by fan voting, roster filled out by players ballot and manager selections.
  • Accompanied by Home Run Derby every year the day before.
  • Celebrity-Legends Softball game played as well.
  • Players wear their own team uniforms during the game rather than a new uniformed denoting which All-Star squad they are a part of.

Despite its problems, the MLB All-Star game probably has the most tradition and importance of all of the leagues. This makes the game more intense, and it is marketed accordingly.

Recently, the Home Run Derby has become more fantasy-like with the players actually picking the teams. It’s clear this has made it a bit more fun for the players (just look at how into it they all are while watching the Derby), but it’s also helped downplay the worry that the Derby curses players for the remainder of the season since the players who participate really want to.

National Hockey League

  • Game played at season’s midway point in January.
  • Rosters selected by fans and NHL Hockey Operations Department.
  • Rather than having East vs. West, the teams are picked through a fantasy draft conducted by the players themselves.
  • Game accompanied by Skills Competition.

Talk about making it fun for the players. Each team captain (chosen by his peers) gets the chance to put together a true dream team from a pool of the best players the NHL has to offer. Ratings wise, the NHL is the least popular sport in the United States, but this change has begun to pick up some momentum for the NHL All-Star festivities as other leagues are beginning to do similar fantasy-style drafts in their festivities.

All in all, each league does things a little different. MLB has the tradition, the NHL has the new idea, the NBA has the celebration package, and the NFL has the viewers (although I’m still not sure why based on the way the players play the game).

It seems that only time will tell if the NHL’s new format will really catch on, but it certainly has potential. MLB still has the most important game, but the NBA has a better package for the fans.