It's become a yearly joke, essentially recited instinctively at this point. The Pro Bowl rosters are announced, and suddenly Twitter is flooded with people talking about how much they are looking forward to not watching the game.
And why should they tune in? The players involved don't take the game seriously. It's basically flag football played in pads in the middle of a paid trip to Hawaii. Their season is over—busting their butts for a meaningless exhibition, after weeks and weeks of putting their bodies on the line, isn't all that appealing to the players.
And that's why this year's format, in which Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice will be the captains and draft the teams rather than follow the usual NFC versus AFC format, should breathe some life into what has become one of the most stale and pointless traditions in sports.
As Nate Davis of USA Today notes, the hope is that the new format will add some competitiveness to the contest:
Everyone is banking on renewed competitive juices, particularly among players who linger on the draft board. And no one wants to see the basketball on grass displays of recent years that have caused the league embarrassment while calling the future of the game into doubt.
"I couldn't watch," Rice, 13-time Pro Bowler, said of recent installments. "I was so disappointed in the effort. I remember going in practice every day at 100%, but I only know one speed.
"I understand they're making big money, big contracts. But you can get injured walking down that street. By giving that 100% effort, you have a better chance not to get injured."
Maybe that will be the case. After all, somebody is going to be picked last. This isn't exactly like being picked last out on the school yard—the players were already selected to be in the game in the first place, after all—but a few of the younger players might take a late selection as a slight and come out buzzing a bit more in the game itself.
But even if that isn't the case and the game is still a casual affair—which every all-star game is, but football without intensity and passion is really boring, as opposed to the NBA All-Star Game where, hey, those dunks are sweet!—we now have another draft to look forward to.
And sports fans love drafts. Be honest—when you play Madden or any other sports game, one of the first things you do is a fantasy draft so you can put together your own team, right?
So playing along and deciding how you would build your own personal Pro Bowl roster while Sanders and Rice do just that should be entertaining. Heck, there's a very good chance it will be much more entertaining than the game itself.
And that may be all Roger Goodell needs to keep the game intact. After all, with the draft being televised over two nights, the Pro Bowl now has a chance to earn ratings at three different times. If the game isn't great but the draft itself is well-received, perhaps we'll have a new reason to care about the Pro Bowl.
Even if we continue to watch something else.