It's Sunday, February 7th at 12:30 PM and my cell phone rings.
I pick it up and on the other line is my cousin asking me "what time does the Pro Bowl start?"
I responded with "6:30, I think, but who really cares?" and I have a feeling that many other professional football fans echoed my sentiments.
This year's Pro Bowl was won by the NFC 30-21 but does anyone really care? Will it ever become popular? My answer is no to both, despite the NFL's feeble attempts to try.
Being selected to the Pro Bowl is considered an "honor" to the players and careers are often judged on how many Pro Bowl's a player makes.
I am sure that this is true with most players, but the Pro Bowl isn't the only team that recognizes "the best of the best."
In addition to the Pro Bowl, there is the All-Pro Team, the main difference is that a Pro Bowler is rarely an All-Pro Selection while an All-Pro is almost always a Pro Bowler because of the fact the All-Pro team selects the best player at each position.
I believe that NFL athletes truly are the best athletes in the world and that the NFL is the most popular sport in the country, but their "all-star" game pales in comparison to the MLB All-Star game and in some ways even to the NBA and NHL All-Star games.
The first main problem with the Pro Bowl is that it is played the week after the Super Bowl. Playing the game the week after the Super Bowl was always a stupid idea and the NFL addressed that by moving the game to the week before the Super Bowl.
Many football fans really only care about how their favorite team does throughout the course of the season and then they watch the Super Bowl regardless of who is in it, then start looking forward to next year.
As a fan, you have watched your players for at least 16 regular season games—do you really need to see them walk through another quarter of football?
I am a big Ravens fans and I lived and died by every play this season and after they were eliminated, I watched the Super Bowl then started looking forward to next season.
I saw every snap that Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs played this season, so I didn't "need" to see them play one more meaningless game.
Many people have the "Super Bowl" hang over and are mentally checked out after the Super Bowl ends and most have gotten their football fix for the season.
So how does the NFL try to increase popularity of the Pro Bowl?
They move it to the week before the Super Bowl, in the same city the Super Bowl is being played. Moving it to the city of the Super Bowl is a fine idea, so they did right there.
Keeping it on the main land gives almost every fan a chance to attend the game fairly cheaply if they want and you already have a crowd down there for the Super Bowl.
The main draw-back of this idea is that the two teams that are playing in the Super Bowl will not have any representatives in the Pro Bowl.
Let's put that in perspective—if the NFL had done that this year then Pro Bowl MVP Larry Fitzgerald wouldn't have even been on the field and therefore would not have been MVP.
Secondly, in most cases the two teams in the Super Bowl have a high number of players between them, again using this year as an example, lets take out Warner, Fitzgerald, Roethlisberger, Ward,Harrison, Polomalu.
These players will likely be replaced by Pro Bowl alternates who are players that were not voted in by the fans—meaning the fans do not want to see them as much as they do the players they voted for.
Another reason this might not work is that all of the media is down there to focus on the Super Bowl—that is the game that matters and that is what everyone wants to cover.
I do admit that two weeks in between the Super Bowl can become a bit much with all the "story" lines, but once the second rolls around then the only thing on everyone's mind is the Pro Bowl.
Also, what will be the cost of these tickets? Are you going to make people who shell out $2000 a ticket to go to the Super Bowl, also have to spend more money and buy a ticket to the Pro Bowl?
I know I wouldn't and I bet more others feel the same.
So what is the solution? Here is my solution and it is pretty reasonable: The NFL should take a page out Major League Baseball's playbook and play the game in the middle of the season—after week 8 or —and have it in a different city—in the continental United States—each year.
I am sure if you ask every player, they would love to have what amounts to basically a second bye week in the middle of the season. This also will leave just one week between the conference title games and the Super Bowl which I believe will increase the hype of the Super Bowl even more.
In the middle of the season, the fans are still in the "football mindset" and they can't get enough of the game. Also, it gives every team a chance to send players, which means fans will get to see the players they want to see.
I know the Pro Bowl is an All Star game, and with the physicality of football, there would be many concerns of a player getting hurt mid-season and missing some regular season games.
My answer to that is that the same thing can also and has frequently happened in preseason games, so should we eliminate them all together?
The Pro Bowl, like all other all star games is an exhibition game and a chance to see the best players in the game, it does not need to be played with the same intensity as regular season games.
Another thing the game lacks is some sort of skills competition.
Baseball has the home run derby, basketball has the slam dunk and three point contests and the NHL has a skills competition.
These things all excite the fans, showcase the sport, and in most cases create more hype for the game. The NFL could easily do a quarterback competition as well as a punt, pass, and kick type of event without risking major injury to a player.
NFL athletes are the best in the world and the NFL is the best run organization in all of sports when it comes to marketing its athletes and brand, but they have dropped the ball in one area: the Pro Bowl.
From game one to the conference championship game there is no more exciting professional sport then the NFL and then they culminate the entire season with the Super Bowl, the most watched game in the world.
How can you top that? Certainly not by putting an All-Star game all the way out in Hawaii that few people even care about and where many fans can't see the best athletes in the world that they desire to see.