What We Learned in the NFL Pro Bowl:
- Defensive-struggle Pro Bowl edged out by NFC
- Players plead to keep Pro Bowl alive
Another year, another Pro Bowl where not many people watched and not many players put a lot of effort. The 62-35 win for the NFC seemed a little more competitive than previous years, but it’s too early to tell if it was competitive enough for Goodell to keep it going. Rogeez has already stated that if the Pro Bowl wasn’t “competitive” enough, it would be the last one played. Was this Pro Bowl competitive enough to keep it going? Does anyone care?
The NFL Pro Bowl is arguably; ok inarguably the worst pro-sports All-Star game out there. No contest. Surprisingly, the Pro Bowl is also still the highest television rated All-Star game of all professional sports because, football is king and always will be. Yet each year the debate heats up about how awful the Pro Bowl voting is, how meaningless the label of Pro-Bowler is after all the drop outs and replacements are made, and how pointless the game itself is. People act as if the Pro Bowl’s existence physically affects them somehow.
First off, each year when the Pro Bowl teams are named the NFL “experts” take their time to weigh in on how stupid the fans are for voting or not voting in certain players, as if a sports All-Star game should have nothing to do with the fans at all. And let me just at this real quickly; is there any other sport where fans are criticized as much as they are in the NFL? In the NBA fans will scream at players and throw things enough to provoke player to jump into the stands and physically fight them but somehow NFL fans are the barbaric morons who don’t know anything about the game they’re watching. Ok, getting off my soap box now. After the Pro Bowl teams are announced, the players start dropping like flies. Whether it’s injuries of the season that the players drop out of the game for, the fact that now it’s the week before the Super Bowl and naturally all players named in the Pro Bowl playing in the Super Bowl can’t fly to Hawaii, or just plain disinterest that causes the Pro Bowl teams to look for 5th and 6th replacement players by the time the ball is snapped that creates more criticism of the game. Now that makes the label of being a “Pro Bowler” a little less significant when you think about by the time the game is played, those playing in it were likely no one’s first choice to play.
Then the actual game is just painful to watch in it of itself. Naturally, players aren’t going to play full force for an exhibition game, and we don’t really expect them to. I don’t understand why all of a sudden for the sake of the Pro Bowl, the term “exhibition game” becomes a dirty word when critiquing how the game is played. I don’t want players to injure themselves for an All-Star game. I don’t really care if they’re not going full force; I’m not expecting them to. I think the Pro Bowl is a time for the players that end up going there to enjoy themselves and the fans that actually watch it, are looking to watch players having fun rather than hitting hard. The Steelers had only one representative at the game this year with Maurkice Pouncey starting at Center. Heath Miller was also named to the Pro Bowl but could not play due to his knee injury. Pouncey not only flew his twin brother Mike out to Hawaii with him, but he also flew the entire Steelers offensive line out for the week of festivities. Gotta love the big men sticking together.
What’s the solution to the Pro Bowl? Does it need a solution? I think something needs to change if not just to stop the bitching about it every friggin year. I do not agree with the sentiment that the way the NFL game is played it does not lend itself well to an All Star game, I think it does. Probably not in this same format, but an All-Star weekend of festivities isn’t a bad idea to keep in the NFL. First off, the “experts” need to stop complaining about the fans voting their favorite players over who they deem worthy of an All-Star appointment, a fan vote is always going to be part of the process, if it isn’t then why the hell would we watch it at all? Second, if the All-Star voting is tainted because of the fan participation and the amount of players that drop out and have to be replaced, why does the Pro Bowl nomination still count as a way to validate a player’s career? Why, for years, did the NFL shove Philip Rivers’ “elite” status down our throats by touting the Pro Bowls he’d played in if those very same experts state that we don’t know what we’re doing when we’re voting players in? I think the Pro Bowl, or any All-Star game for professional sports is more about the connection between player and fan and the “experts” need to take themselves completely out of the equation. I think the format of the Pro Bowl should be more about fan and player interaction and less about playing an actual game. If there needs to be a list of players nominated each year as the best players in the league for evaluation purposes, let those all-knowing experts name those guys themselves.
After all the ranting and raving the actual highlights of the game included Houston’s DE JJ Watt going out for a few passes at WR, Jeff Saturday (now in the NFC with Green Bay) actually taking a snap with Peyton and the AFC, and Ed Houchuli getting laughs calling an actual penalty in the game. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph was named MVP with 5 catches and 122 receiving yards. Several players including Watt and Giants WR Victor Cruz spoke to the camera and Goodell saying they were playing hard in attempts to keep the game going. I doubt Goodell is actually going to abolish the game entirely, but then again I wouldn’t put it passed him either. Brace yourselves for the week ahead, Steeler Nation; it’s going to suck with the Super Bowl coverage. The only highlight will be when hopefully Jerome Bettis is named to the Hall of Fame class of 2013 on Saturday.