Pro Bowl 2013: Players' Increased Effort Bodes Well for Future of Game

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Pro Bowl 2013: Players' Increased Effort Bodes Well for Future of Game
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Peyton Manning is leading the charge for players to simply try harder in the Pro Bowl.

A concerted effort by the players to increase their effort level and take the 2013 Pro Bowl more seriously shouldn't threaten the future of the NFL's annual showcase of most of its top talent.

The past two years have been somewhat of a debacle, with not much defense being played and the professionalism of the participants being called into question. It hasn't exactly done a lot to enhance the case for the game to continue, and it almost wasn't scheduled at all for this season.

However, after an invigorating and often humorous speech by Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning on Tuesday night, the paradigm seems to be shifting (h/t NFL.com):

The past two years, the play in this game has been unacceptable...If it was a walkthrough, your coach would say it was a bad walkthrough. And that's why (the league) could try to cancel this game.

Those are pretty strong words from the legendary signal-caller, and it is just the type of leadership necessary for players who have been giving purposefully lackluster performances in Honolulu.

Manning's Denver teammate Champ Bailey noted that the Pro Bowl is a tradition that has to keep going in a report by Sports Illustrated. Bailey said the only way that will happen is for the players to continue taking it seriously.

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That's not to say that Manning's rhetoric alone is going to save the game, but it is a positive step in the right direction.

Canceling the game would deprive Hawaii of its annual pro football experience that is unique to the state and is a great outreach opportunity for the league. Not having an all-star showcase would also be an oddity in major American sports, as all the others have such events that do substantially well.

The biggest problem with the Pro Bowl is that there is essentially nothing at stake that has any bearing on the season.

Thus, suffering an injury or a setback in such a contest seems pointless, and many other players have dropped out due to "injury."

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Any possible increase in fan interaction and behind-the-scenes access the players can provide can also help enhance the Pro Bowl's viability.
Far be it from me to question a player's health, but it does seem at least somewhat suspect that so many players who just finished up the postseason aren't good enough to go just one week later without any officially reported ailments.

Although the selection process is criticized for being so heavy on fan influence, many players that fans actually vote for are not showing up. That is hurting the prestige of the game, and is why it is critical for the 2013 Pro Bowl to be a better indication of the sensational skills of some of the NFL's brightest stars.

In a game that has nothing at stake anyway, teams should make a stronger effort to cover their own players who are making the trip to the tropics. Like the Houston Texans, whose official Twitter page captured their marquee players practicing for the AFC on Thursday:

Watt was also miked up for practice that day, which was a treat to listen to and can be found at NFL.com. With so many charismatic figures and all the technology and social media access available, the Pro Bowl should capitalize on as many of these opportunities as possible.

Giving fans as much insider access to this contest as possible would be a valuable part of the increased effort that Pro Bowlers give, and would go a long way in securing this recently diminished game's future.

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