9 Reasons to Kill the NFL Pro Bowl
Coming up with 9 reasons to end the hopelessly futile NFL Pro Bowl isn’t hard. There are lots of reasons, but they all lean on each other to form one BIG reason: Professional football and exhibition games don’t work well together.
I’ll get into the reasons below, but suffice it to say that dropping an exhibition game in Hawaii, and littering it with stars still doesn’t make it relevant. Relevant things don’t take place in Hawaii. That’s a rule. The NFL Pro Bowl has run its course. Long ago, it may have carried more weight. People may have enjoyed the spectacle more. Less risk of injury may have allowed the game to be played more purely. I’m not sure, because that sure as hell was never the case in my lifetime.
The NFL Pro Bowl is nothing but self-congratulatory. There’s no excitement, no carrot to dangle in front of fans who have just spent the last six months living and breathing the sport. The Hawaiian backdrop makes it feel more like an incentive trip for a company’s top salesman (which the players kind of are) rather than any sort of athletic competition. We already know who the best are. Let’s just give them a nod and move on to the NBA until August, ok?
After the Super Bowl, people are already suffering from football fatigue. Before the Super Bowl, fans are focusing on the Super Bowl. Early in the season, it would be seen as a distraction. Mid-season, it would be declined by most every player so they could take a bye week. Granted, if the game was worth a damn, people would be more inclined to make time for it, but it’s not, so nobody wants to schedule it anywhere.
9. There’s No Good Time for It
Football is definitely a team sport. Coaches can change the trajectory of teams through strategy, personnel, and philosophy. Quarterbacks rely on their offensive line, their receivers, and their coaches to hone the passing game to a razor sharp edge. Guess what happens when you take a pu-pu platter of 11 strangers and a new coach and toss them out onto the field. Nothing happens. The world’s elite become a pick-up game in the street. So do you ask them to practice? NOPE. BECAUSE PRACTICING FOR AN ALL-STAR GAME IS AN UNREASONABLE REQUEST. Players should be able to show up, hot dog, and go home. That’s not feasible in football. Unless you want to subject the players to a month of training camp, you’re not gonna get a game worth a damn.
8. There’s No Strategy
Ugh. I’m sure Hawaii’s a fine state and has culture beyond the dumb tourist stuff we see on TV. However, there’s no better way to undermine the Pro Bowl and the sport than by taking the coaches, putting them in leis, and airing a sporting event in broad daylight while it’s 11 PM on the east coast. Not only does it make the game look like a joke, but it doesn’t do wonders for Hawaii’s credibility either. Hawaii: Host to the least relevant sporting event in America!
In the baseball, basketball, and hockey all-star games, we get to see a fair amount of one-on-one and flair. They’re games built towards individual achievement. Football is, but not in this context. Putting the best players in the world in this hodgepodge will actually have them looking WORSE than they did in the regular season. They don’t have the infrastructure to succeed.
6. Individuals Don’t Shine at the Pro Bowl
Oh, man. I’m so glad we voted in those lineman. Watch him pull on this pitch! What a marvel to watch. Pro-Bowl caliber kickers kicking extra points. A linebacker standing in the middle of the field like a rover in a streetball game. Unless you’re touching the ball, NO ONE CARES. It’s a lineman blocking a lineman, and neither one cares.
5. If You’re Not a Skill Player, What’s the Point?
At least when we sign up for those god-awful late-July scrimmages at training camp, we know we’re working TOWARDS something. Not so with a February exhibition game. It’s the death rattle of the NFL season. If it comes after the Super Bowl, it’s a cruel joke. Taunting us as if to say, “There is no more football. You will watch this because that’s all there is for 7 months.” And we STILL don’t watch.
4. It’s a Tease
This may speak to #1, but the Pro Bowl game is so watered down that it might as well be Coors Light. There’s no rushing, no sacks, no blocked kicks, no effort on special teams. It goes largely to point #1, but it deserves its own point. If you’re going to turn the game into what’s essentially flag football, that could actually be fun. But don’t try to sell it as football. Put it on a beach. Let the players showboat. But don’t neuter the sport and call it football.
3. The Rules
I don’t even know if the teams are NFC and AFC anymore or East-West or what, but it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares about winning because the winner doesn’t get anything. Sure, they might get some roast pig and a jar of poi or something, but there’s no home field advantage (for a one-game playoff, it would be too big an advantage), and there stakes of a football playoff are just too high to leave to an exhibition game.
2. No Stakes
Football is a very explosive game, and the intensity can’t be dialed back down to a “6” because players want to avoid injury. So you’re left with two distinct outcomes: The players carry on as they normally do, risking injury for a meaningless promotional game, or they just phone it in, and go through the motions to prevent this inconvenient game from carrying disastrous consequences. Because football players understand a little something about risk and return, they choose the latter. As long as the threat of injury exists in (good) football, players aren’t going to tempt fate and risk their careers unless something else is at stake. Since we’ve established that very little is at stake, we’re left with self-preservation on the field where football should be. And I just don’t see a way around that in any practical fashion. So kill the damn game and let the season die with dignity. Maybe a nice awards dinner for the Pro Bowl players instead?