The 2013 NFL Pro Bowl is just a day away and the amount of people excited about the game is a number you could probably count on one finger.
The NFL is the most popular professional sport in the United States, but the one thing the league has never figured out is how to execute a decent all-star game. Let's run through a few of the game's many faults.
Sure the game is played in Hawaii, which is different and fun, but it also takes place when the season is all but over. And in a not-so-brilliant idea by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and company, the Pro Bowl was recently moved to a week before the Super Bowl. This ensures that two of the league's 32 teams will not be represented in the game each and every year.
Agree or disagree with the idea, at least the MLB's game has something on the line. Even the NBA and NHL, whose all-star games are exhibitions, have found ways to keep fans more interested in those games than the NFL's.
The NBA has an entire all-star weekend including three-point shootouts, dunk contests and rookie versus sophomore games. The MLB has the Home Run Derby before its all-star game, making the festivities last two days. While the NHL comes closest to the NFL in irrelevancy, at least it's played during the regular season.
Obviously there's a drastically low chance of the NFL moving the Pro Bowl to a time during the regular season, but it would be much better placed there than right before the Super Bowl. Nobody wants to see the best players of the other 30 teams not involved in the Super Bowl playing two-hand touch on a paradise island.
With every media outlet focusing in on the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl is seen as a speed bump in the way of the biggest game of the season. When it was played after the Super Bowl, at least fans watched because it would be their last taste of pro football until August.
The other major issue the Pro Bowl runs into is that so many of the all-stars named to the AFC and NFC roster back out before the game is played. Not even the players want to be a part of this game and they're the ones who get to spend the week in Hawaii.
By the time the Pro Bowl is about to be played, so many players have been called in as replacements that it feels like every player is an all-star by the season's end. With so many alternates named for players who don't want to be there, the game has no exclusivity.
Perhaps the biggest issue the NFL faces with trying to make the Pro Bowl matter, though, is the fact that it doesn't care. The fans don't care because the players don't care. The players don't care because truth be told, the NFL really doesn't care about the game. The Pro Bowl's only purpose is to get some Hawaiian ticket sales, make players happy and squeeze out some television ratings.
Until the NFL decides it wants to care about making the Pro Bowl entertaining and meaningful for fans to watch, the exhibition will continue to be the worst all-star game in all of pro sports.
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