While the game has come under fire in recent years for the lack of effort from players, sometimes fans do not understand what they have until it is gone.
This was almost the case with the star-studded showdown in Honolulu, Hawaii, as commissioner Roger Goodell was close to canceling the game altogether. The news was broken by NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
Roger was very serious about potentially canceling the Pro Bowl because apparently it's very expensive and isn't of a ton of value to them. To be honest with you, I was completely comfortable with eliminating it until I talked to the players, and they said they loved it and they want to be there.
Any football is good football, so fans should be thrilled the game is still around—especially with a new format sure to entertain.
When: Sunday, Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Rosters (via the NFL's Instagram):
What to Expect
Foxworth was tasked with finding a way to make the Pro Bowl interesting again in order to keep it around—he did just that with the first-ever Pro Bowl draft led by Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice.
Gone are the boring days of NFC vs. AFC showdowns. In its place is an unconferenced format that looks to capitalize on the popularity of fantasy football.
The draft itself makes for some intriguing matches only possible at the Pro Bowl, but it does present one problem in that teammates may have to line up across from each other. Foxworth says that if this concern leads to problems, the game may be thrown out completely:
That's the only legitimate concern, and I completely understand it. I was faced with the possibility of canceling the game or trying to make it interesting. If some of these conflicts that we create make it so we can't go forward, then we'll throw the game out.
Fortunately for Foxworth and fans, who should appreciate the fact that football is even on television with the season over, friendly fire does not sound as if it will be much of an issue on Jan. 26.
For example, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict says he will let receiver A.J. Green off easy if he makes a reception, per NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala:
Vontaze Burfict and AJ Green are on different Pro Bowl teams. Burfict: "If he catches one over the middle, I'll let him go." #merchandise— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) January 23, 2014
The same goes for Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who says he will not be "too violent" when it comes to his quarterback Alex Smith, via NFL.com's Kevin Patra:
I won't be too violent. I know how important he is, but at the same time I'm trying to get that truck (for MVP) so we'll see how it is. I might be gentle. I got to get the sack though. I might get him the smoothest way I can, but we'll see about it.
Outside of that new wrinkle, perhaps more important is the fact the Pro Bowl is now the only place fans can see dream matchups and players on the same team.
Fans who have always wanted to see who wins a head-to-head matchup between Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and wideout Larry Fitzgerald will get their chance.
Even better, fans get to see what a read-option attack led by Cam Newton and Jamaal Charles looks like. Andrew Luck will finally get to toy with a loaded roster and throw to Charles, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green.
All in all, the NFL has done its best to revitalize the game. Provided the players show up ready to compete, the noble attempt might just work.