As another NFL season winds down, I can’t help but feel just a little bit guilty for not caring about the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl game.
I mean, I am a football fan.
I like all-star games.
I just don’t care about the NFL Pro Bowl.
The NFL’s all-star game is one of the only major all-star games that is played at the end of a league's season, and it also draws lower ratings than the sport’s regular-season games.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Pro Bowl—along with other all-star games—is the selection process, which, for the NFL, is a three-part system. One-third of the total votes is determined by players’ votes and another by coaches’ votes. As a result, the selection process can become political and biased.
Fans’ votes comprise the last third of the votes. This means that the rosters are loaded with players—often undeserving—from larger market teams rather than more deserving players from smaller market teams. Consequently, the game shuts out thousands of fans from teams without any participating players.
Then, once these players hit the field, it seems their primary objective is not to get injured, leading to lackadaisical efforts and unimpressive big plays.
Look, I understand that all-star games are primarily aimed at entertainment. Some of the world’s best athletes get together on the same stage and put on a fun show for fans. Whether it is hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer or football, the atmosphere at these events should be exciting and friendly.
But for some reason, the Pro Bowl is just boring to me.
Other sports have taken initiative in recent years to up the ante.
The MLB, for instance, turned the Midsummer Classic into a hit in 2003 by announcing that the All-Star Game’s winning league would earn home-field advantage in the World Series later in that same year. Though some fans find this controversial, there’s no denying that it has sparked interest in the event and has given both players and fans incentive to tune in.
The NHL, too, made a bold move to give its All-Star Game a makeover by announcing in 2010 that each team’s roster would be selected like a fantasy sports team. Instead of a Conference vs. Conference game, the teams in the all-star matchup would be determined by team captains selecting their own players, deemed eligible by the league’s selection system. This move appeals to the younger generation of fantasy sports competitors and also makes the event unpredictable and unique.
So, what can be done to fix the Pro Bowl?
The NFL can’t realistically move their all-star game to the middle of the season since the regular season is so short. By Week 8 or 9, there simply wouldn’t be enough data to make fair Pro Bowl selections.
Because the Super Bowl is always played at a neutral location, there’s no way the NFL would mimic what the MLB has done with home-field advantage. That would simply be unfair, anyway, since the Super Bowl is a one-game championship.
For starters, the NFL should move the Pro Bowl back to its original date of after the Super Bowl. It makes little sense for the players competing in the Super Bowl to be excluded from the all-star event.
It might also be fun for the NFL to consider having a Pro Bowl rookie game, pitting the league's best first-year players against one another. The NBA's All-Star Weekend, for example, includes the Celebrity Game, the Rookie Challenge and various other contests. This approach appeals to a wider audience and includes more participating players.
So, what do you think? Leave your thoughts, suggestions and ideas in the comments section and get the conversation started.