For a long time now, the Pro Bowl has been a glorified exhibition game in which everyone’s favorite NFL stars play at half-speed during a vacation to Hawaii. While I wish the game was a bit more entertaining, everyone would enjoy the game more if it was played the weekend after the Super Bowl like in the old days.
The Pro Bowl doesn’t have a weekend dedicated to the game like the NBA and there’s no playoff implications on the line like the MLB, but it does give football fans one last chance to see the stars before having to wait until preseason kicks off next August.
When the NFL elected to move the Pro Bowl to the weekend between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl it made sense on paper, but when the biggest game of the season is growing close, nobody wants to see the guys from the 30 other teams go play a backyard football game in those ridiculous uniforms.
There’s a time and a place for those shenanigans and that’s after the Super Bowl is over. All fans want the two weeks before the big game is to see all the hype develop, all media day coverage, all the little side stories; not players from all the losing teams hanging out in Honolulu.
According to a recent USA Today article, the ratings for the Pro Bowl went down eight percent from 2011 to 2012, and that trend will only continue if Roger Goodell and the NFL don’t bring back the old system of doing things.
The players elected to each conference’s team also tend to feature lots of players from both teams in the Super Bowl, meaning that fans don’t even get to see those guys take the field in Hawaii. The way the system works now, the Pro Bowl can only feature players from 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams because none of the players who will be in the Super Bowl will ever walk on the gridiron in the current format.
Watching Miami Dolphins’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall catch four touchdowns with 176 yards receiving was a bit entertaining, but it would have been more fun to see his AFC East rival Tom Brady throw him a few TDs instead. Unfortunately for fans, that couldn’t happen since Brady had another bowl game to worry about.
I highly doubt the NFL has received any big financial gain from moving the weekend in which this exhibition game is played. Players from all 32 teams should be able to play in the Pro Bowl. It’s only fair to the players who earned the right and especially for the fans who voted them in.
The players are never going to go at full speed for this game, it’s never going to have an impact on postseason play, but it can and should be a football fan’s one last day to enjoy their favorite sport before a long offseason.