For the first time, the NFL is holding its Pro Bowl game in the same location as the Super Bowl and instead of having it the week after the big game, it takes place the week before. (It is also the first time in 30 years that the game is being held outside of the Aloha State.)
Memo to Roger Goodell: EPIC FAILURE
This makes almost no sense. The only legitimate argument one can make for this move is that it fills the void between the NFC and AFC Championship games and the Super Bowl and might make a slight increase to the already enormous profits the NFL will rake in during its two weeks in Miami.
Apart from that, the move is one of Goodell's worst.
Let's look at in on a couple different levels.
First, the players who were selected to go. Now, as opposed to the MLB or NBA All-Star games, in which the players do not generally have to worry about major injuries or fatigue, football has already proven to be the most vicious and damaging sport in the U.S. (I would say the world, but I have no stats on the average life-span of Rugby players).
So the players already have a reason to avoid the game. Why risk injuring yourself after the season is over?
There have been several NFL players that have suffered serious injuries during this game (NFC Super Bowl quarterback Drew Brees broke his shoulder in the game a couple years ago).
The only reason players do (did) go to the game was for a free trip to Hawaii for them and their families. It made sense, play well and you get to go to a beautiful tropical paradise for a week.
But not anymore.
Instead, they get to go to a media circus in Florida (where many players already live) and play in the same stadium as the Super Bowl.
How would you feel if you had just lost the AFC or NFC Championship game but still had to go to the same city where it was being held and play in a meaningless game in the same stadium as the Super Bowl but only on the wrong week?
That just seems like a cruel punishment or a slap in the face more than the big reward it is supposed to be.
Second, for the fans. While the average fan has a better chance of going to the game since it is more accessible, they lose out on the quality of the game.
Here is a list of players who were elected to the Pro Bowl but are not playing:
AFC: Peyton Manning (playing in the Super Bowl), Philip Rivers (injury) Tom Brady (injury) Reggie Wayne (Super Bowl) Wes Welker (injury) Dallas Clark (Super Bowl) Jake Long (injury) Jeff Saturday (Super Bowl) Dwight Freeney (Super Bowl) Robert Mathis (Super Bowl) Brian Cushing (injury) Jairus Byrd (injury) Antoine Bethea (Super Bowl)
For the NFC: Drew Brees (Super Bowl) Brett Favre (injury) Steven Jackson (injury) Larry Fitzgerald (injury) Jonathon Stinchcomb (Super Bowl) Jahri Evens (Super Bowl) Andre Gurode (injury) Jonathon Goodwin (Super Bowl) Lance Briggs (injury) Charles Woodson (injury) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (injury) Antoine Winfield (injury) Adrian Wilson (injury) Roman Harper (Super Bowl) Darren Sharper (Super Bowl) Percy Harvin (injury).
While some of these injuries are legit, some are just to avoid having to play in the Pro Bowl because they do not want to deal with it. And I imagine as the game draws nearer, another couple players will drop out.
So, the AFC quarterbacks are now Matt Schaub, Vince Young and David Garrard... Yes, David Garrard with his 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season and Vince Young who did not play for the first six weeks.
No offense to Garrard or Young, but neither deserves to be there. However, with 13 players not being able to play due to the Super Bowl, and that many more missing due to injuries, the NFL is left scrambling. This means a lower quality product to those fans who actually make it to the game.
And finally for the NFL, it loses out on a generally untapped market in Hawaii. On a personal note, I currently live in Hawaii so it would be unfair to say that I am not biased. But when the Pro Bowl is out here, Hawaii turns out in force for all the events and game.
For 30 years, the locals have rocked out in their favorite team's attire, gone to all the events leading up to the game and supported the NFL in every form and fashion.
Next to the Pipeline Masters Surfing competition, the Pro Bowl was THE event to be at in Hawaii year in and year out.
And on an economical standpoint, it hurts both Hawaii and the NFL. The NFL at this point in time is being bashed on every radio station in the islands.
The local sports radio (1420 am) takes several callers an hour that just complain about the NFL and how it took the Pro Bowl.
For the record, I am not saying that Hawaii has some right to have it out here every year, but it certainly isn't helping the NFL's image to the local fanbase.
In terms of Hawaii's economy, the Pro Bowl is one of the single biggest weeks of the year when talking about tourism.
With people traveling less in this down economy, Hawaii has taken a big hit on all fronts. The Pro Bowl had been a saving grace during a general lull period.
The hotels would all be booked up, the car rental stores were sold out, and the restaurants were packed with people hoping to see NFL players eating there.
But not this year.
And I am not saying the Pro Bowl needs to come back to Hawaii, but Goodell has to recognize that to make this game more enticing for players and more entertaining for fans, he needs to put the Pro Bowl in a location that generally doesn't get the chance to see the NFL.
Hawaii makes sense for the lack of NFL games and because of the weather.
Or lets just say to heck with having a regular season game in London, have the Pro Bowl there. The weather might be a little worse, but it would give the players a chance to visit Europe and the fans a chance to see their favorite players.
Or even south of the border. A couple years ago, the 49ers and the Cardinals played in Mexico in front of a packed house of over 100,000 people in Aztec Stadium. You could have the Pro Bowl there and it would give the same chance to widen their base.
There is a market out there for this game, but that market is not for the usual fans in the usual places with a "pretty good" group of players.
Wise up Goodell, this is one mistake that needs to be rectified soon.