Thanks to ProFootball Talk's Darin Gantt, we now know the Pro Bowl, a game that features top modern football stars playing the game at half speed, might actually feature some stars of yesteryear playing at what only seems like half speed.
UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 13, at 8:20 p.m. ET
Just make it happen, NFL.
UPDATE: Monday, Jan. 13, at 3:35 p.m. ET
And this is why you can't have nice things, Pro Bowl.
Gantt now reports that we should all move along because there is nothing to see here (a sentiment far more literal than you might imagine):
A league spokesman tells PFT that Sanders won’t be playing in the all-star game, but that he and fellow captain Jerry Rice “will be spending the full week with their clubs beyond the draft, attending practices, on the sidelines for gameday.”
Great. The one thing some of us were actually looking forward to seeing is nothing but football fantasy. We will sit by the computer for the next couple of weeks in the mere hope that there is an update to the previous report that states, "Just kidding. Sanders is totally playing."
Carry on not caring about the Pro Bowl as you were.
---End of update---
Here is what Sanders, former-football-player-turned-NFL Network-analyst, had to say via Twitter:
He also managed to shot-call in the form of this tweet to Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (Sanders donned No. 21 for most of his career.):
The NFL, via NFL.com, reported back in July that the league would be shaking things up when it came to the maligned but still-popular Pro Bowl game.
Among the more intriguing rule changes is the inclusion of two captains. Each side will be led by their respective NFL player from yesteryear. For 2014, Jerry Rice and Sanders will be assuming this role.
Instead of a typical NFC vs. AFC contest, players will be drafted, regardless of conference, during a Jan. 22 broadcast on NFL Network.
Apparently, the feeling was, "Why stop there?" Sanders is still in fine shape—at least he can stand upright and walk a few yards at a time, which seems to be the prerequisite for the game.
If you don't believe me, check out some of the plays from previous iterations of football's game of stars:
Defense is more of a loose suggestion at the Pro Bowl.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: The game's top players aren't going to go all out for a meaningless game that is far more about celebration than it ever was about winning. We wouldn't for one second blame the athletes for taking plays off.
The Boston Globe's Chad Finn reported that many of the players initially voted in choose not to go to the game. In 2013, Finn wrote, "Twenty-nine players on this year’s AFC and NFC squads were replacements for selections who bowed out for one reason or another."
Star power aside, and many of you might agree, the game itself is tough to watch, and that's putting it mildly. But don't think for a second that the league is going to take the event out back for the Old Yeller treatment.
Finn's report also notes the 2013 clash that saw the NFC triumph over the AFC, 62-35, actually drew 12.2 million sets of eyeballs for a 7.1 rating. We can only assume half of them were napping the second the game came on.
For comparison, MLB's 2012 All-Star Game reportedly garnered "a 6.8 rating and 10.9 million viewers."
ProFootball Talk's Michael David Smith found similar circumstances in 2012, issuing that the Pro Bowl still managed to rank No. 31 among the 50 most-watched sporting events of that particular year, via Sports Media Watch.
While it's true the Pro Bowl is far removed from the hard-hitting action we adore on Sundays, it still thrives on many a television set at the end of the season, so it's not going anywhere.
And this brings us to the current version of the pre-Super Bowl soiree that is the Pro Bowl. If Sanders does indeed suit up and appear in the game, it will be more of a sign of things to come than a passing novelty.
To which we say, sure. Why the hell not?
If the damn thing won't die, we might as well put a bow on it and teach it to juggle. Go ahead and bring back familiar names from the past. Heck, warm Jim Everett up and see if he can still toss interceptions.
The only real suggestion we have, and one we are sure Sanders will embrace, is the 46-year-old showing up as Leon Sandcastle.
The game was already leaning toward inane silliness; it was only a matter of time until it became completely over the top. We all remember MTV's Rock N' Jock series. The sooner the NFL embraces the wackiness, the better. That way we will actually watch the game instead of keeping it on in the background as we do our taxes.
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