For a number of reasons, the NFL's Pro Bowl has not met the quality standards of All-Star games in other sports. However, players like Peyton Manning want to make sure the Pro Bowl does not go anywhere.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has debated in the past about whether to get rid of the game altogether due to the poor product that has been on the field. The poor effort has led to low interest from fans and low ratings around the country.
As a result, the Denver Broncos quarterback sent a message to the players involved in this year's game to improve the performance, according to Jeff Darlington of NFL.com. Manning said the following at a banquet:
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.
However, the question still remains as to why the Pro Bowl should stay. All it seems to do is give players a free trip to Hawaii.
Manning answers that debate as well. According to Kareem Copeland of NFL.com, the quarterback says that the best part of the event is the interaction between older and younger players:
Don't tell me there's not great value in that conversation. If they cancel this, then I think the NFL will lose that. Is there monetary value in that conversation? I would argue yes. I would argue that's helping keep the NFL as great as it is. So I'd hate for it to be canceled.
Being selected to an All-Star team is one thing, but actually playing alongside childhood heroes is something completely different.
This year, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will share snaps for the AFC team with Manning, who is a future Hall of Famer. The youngster can learn from the veteran firsthand, and it will undoubtedly make him better in the future.
All around the field these types of interactions will occur. Running back Doug Martin will be on the same side as Adrian Peterson, while Patrick Peterson can learn a few things from Champ Bailey at cornerback.
These players are already very good, but the extra knowledge and confidence that they gain from playing in this game will make them great. In the end, the product that the NFL provides will be much better.
Manning learned about the benefit of the Pro Bowl when he was younger. During his early years, he played on the same Pro Bowl field as Rich Gannon, Drew Bledsoe and Brett Favre. There were certainly things to take away from each of these players during Manning's formative years.
In addition, these players deserve to celebrate a great individual year. It is one thing to tell a first- or second-year player that he had a good season, but it is quite another for him to be officially chosen alongside some of the best to play the game.
The game recognizes players' accomplishments much more than the All-Pro list by the Associated Press.
Even if the event fails to live up to the competitive nature that fans have come to expect from the NFL, it is no reason to get rid of the game. As Manning explained, there are larger benefits to bringing all of these players together.
Hopefully, the Pro Bowl will live on as the league continues to bridge the gap between the past and the future.
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