Thanks, but no thanks
Record number of NFLers deciding against playing in the Pro Bowl
With all the awesomeness that protrudes from the NFL on a weekly basis, the league does few things are as worthless as the NFL Pro Bowl. A meaningless game played in a stadium an ocean away with zero atmosphere or intrigue with players by the dozens choosing not to play.
This year a record 133 players were voted to or named as replacements for the game, shattering the previous record of 119 for the 2010 game. Granted, the reasons for playing are many and some very legitimate (like playing in the Super Bowl, injury, etc.) but this exodus of invitees is troublesome for the league. Eighty six players were originally selected, meaning a whopping 47 players declined the trip to Hawaii.
I don’t know about you, but I am not exactly jazzed up about seeing Jameis Winston, Chris Ivory, and Allen Robinson play in an “All-Star Game”.
The format added a bit of spice in recent years as the conference alignments were shed, opting for a player draft, more contemporary jerseys, and moving the game to the Super Bowl site, but nothing done by the league to spice up the game at all.
So how do we fix it?
First off, move the game out of the dump that is Aloha Stadium.
On December 6th, the US Women’s National Soccer Team was set to play an exhibition game at Aloha Stadium and refused to play the game due to the turf being unsuitable to play on.
That same day, Pro Football Talk reported via an NFL spokesman “We inspect the Pro Bowl field every year well in advance of the game and on an ongoing basis to ensure that it meets our specifications and is comparable to other NFL surfaces”.
The sport is violent enough, and for guys who are risking multi-million dollar contracts, playing on a sub-standard playing surface isn’t exactly an incentive.
Move the game to the site of the Super Bowl, the host city is the sports media epicenter that week as it is, makes no sense to have it anywhere else.
Next, change the weekend. Pro Bowl Saturday should include a skills competition. Bring back the golf cart driven targets for a quarterback skills competition, a skill position agility course, a kickers/punters game of “HORSE”.
As for the actual Pro Bowl game? Lets. Get. Weird.
Let’s have four teams in a 7-on-7 bracket style tournament, each team plays a 30 minute game, winners advance to a title game with a winner take all $5,000,000 pot.
Tell me you wouldn’t watch that.
Truth is, until we demand it or the players force it, the NFL will keep force feeding us this vanilla product. Players declining the invites in record numbers will help to enact some change.