All-Star Games: Are They Truly Irrelevant?

Justin GormanCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2009

I'm 27 years old, and it really does not feel like it was too long ago when I was hanging out at a buddy's house in grade school watching Spud Webb, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and Dee Brown make magic in the Slam Dunk competition.

I remember watching MLB All-Star games with Dwight Evans and Mike Greenwell, and NHL All-Star games with Bourque and Neely. 

I never really got into the Pro Bowl, but let's be honest, who really has? 

I spent Valentine's Day 2009 in a bar watching the NBA skills challenge, the 3-point competition and the dunk competition.  Admittedly, it is a sad state of affairs for a Valentine's Day, but be that as it may, it got me to thinking.  While I don't deny that the skills challenge takes, well, skill, it seems that the participants just went through the motions, and didn't show an ounce of hustle.  The 3-point competition used to be really exciting when the likes of Larry Bird and Craig Hodges used to put on clinics.  Similar numbers are being put up now, but it just doesn't seem as impressive as it used to be. 

The Slam Dunk competition has gone so far down in originality that it has become wholly unimpressive.  Granted, there's only so much the players can control - there are only so many ideas for how to design variations on the highest percentage shot in the game.  Everybody remembers Spud Webb's size, Jordan's foul line dunk and Dee Brown's arm. 

Do we throw Dwight Howard's Superman Cape and Nate Robinson's "Kryptonite" basketball into the category of memorable dunks, and if so, for what reason?

Now, I might be way out of line, but it seems that All-Star games universally have become more about the theater and the production than they are about the skill or the competition.  They have always been an exhibition game, current MLB All-Star games excepted, but they also used to garner more anticipation and excitement.

This begs the question, is there a true decline in the quality of All-Star games across the board?  If so, what caused it?

I can think of a few ideas, but none are rock solid, by any stretch of the imagination.  Did the market and resulting tremendous salaries cause people to care less about All-Star weekend events?  Did the MLB "tie game" fiasco and subsequent strategy of "making it count" diminish the significance of the other sports' All-Star Games?  Is it truly more about theater and self-aggrandizing showmanship than it is about showing what an All-Star truly is?  Is this decline caused by the pure commercialization of these events?

I remember a time when the All-Star Games meant something while meaning nothing - when the players selected actually demonstrated why they were selected, despite the outcome of the game meaning nothing except bragging rights.  I remember when the All-Stars themselves thought it was a privilege to participate in the Slam Dunk and 3-point competitions, and now see it as having injury and contractual implications.  I remember the excitement.

Maybe I'm just getting older, or maybe I'm actually onto something.