OK folks, here we are in the year 2010.
There has been a lot of talk circulating around the sports world about canning the idea of "All-Pro" or "All-Star" games because of the revenues being brought in for these entertainment pieces.
Yea, here we talk about money and marketing again.
I for one, have always been a big fan of the games. Every major American league (NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA) has their version of the game. Full of activities, festivities, and anything else that ends with "ies" and ultimately ends in what everyone wants to see—their hometown hero playing along side with all the other stars of the time.
It's a great concept and makes for excitement except for one small detail: They really don't play as hard for the game, making a boring experience.
The players, coaches, agents, and owners alike are all too afraid of injuries impeding their careers, which is rightly so. However, on the other side of the coin these players are getting paid handsomely I may add.
Now to the nitty gritty.
My biggest problem with any of these games is the NFL Pro Bowl. Yea, yea another article on why to hate the Pro Bowl, but here I am going to offer some solutions.
1. Timing Timing Timing
Who in their right mind schedules a meaningless game meant to be a treat of entertainment for the fans of the game right before the Super Bowl?
Are you listening Roger?
Really? But this game should be based on who is the absolute best performer in his position.
This year's AFC starters for QB are Matt Schaub (HOU), Vince Young (TEN), and David Garrard (JAX).
Vince Young and David Garrard?
As I look at the league leaders for the 2009 season the top three AFC candidates are Schaub, Peyton Manning, and Brady (NE). As I stare at the Pro Bowl roster, no Manning.
Why not? Oh yea, he's in the Super Bowl.
This reason alone should be a clue of why not to hold the Pro Bowl before the big game of games in the NFL.
2. Fan Voting
This one ties in a little with the timing aspect. But more importantly, were winning a popularity contest.
In the RBs category for example, the fans almost got it right. Yes, arm chair GMs you get two out of three on this one.
The three starters again, for the AFC (just for example here) are Maurice Jones- Drew (JAX), Chris Johnson (TEN), and ugh—here we go again—Ray Rice (BAL). It seems fans are missing something here.
The RB that is listed as league leader at number three happens to be Thomas Jones (NYJ). Ray Rice is ranked sixth in stat categories with 1,139 yards and seven TDs on the season while Jones is ranked third with 1,402 yards and 14 TDs.
I find myself wanting to find a way to justify this aside from popularity but I just can't. This really takes away from the game if the best possible players aren't there.
Can we just get away from how many fans vote and just put the guys in there who are the absolute best? That would be a true test to see which league has the better players, no?
And most definitely, the two Super Bowl coaches should be the coaches of the Pro Bowl teams. After all, those two coaches led their teams to the big game didn't they?
For example, the 2008 PB was coached by Norv Turner (SD) for the AFC and Mike McCarthy (GB) for the NFC. Incidentally, the 2008 SB teams were NY Giants and NE Patriots.
Why on earth would you pick a coach that didn't make it to the big game? I'm scratching my head.
I'm really not going to touch a lot on this one because I am quite happy that Roger Goodell decided to move from Hawaii in its tradition to Miami for 2010. People can argue that when the game was held in Miami in 1975, it didn't draw a huge crowd.
Well, you don't exactly have the same caliber of players, nor the marketing skills you do these days. Also, American football has grown in popularity since then.
For most fans, a trip to Hawaii to include air fare, a hotel room, and cost of inflated sports venue tickets makes for a miserable wallet-emptying experience. I for one have never been able to afford a Pro Bowl.
Even this year.
I live in North Carolina, and could easily purchase a ticket and make the drive down to Miami, rent a hotel, and go to the game. Even with all these costs I would be saving some cash without buying all the over-inflated Hawaii costs.
Putting the Pro Bowl in different venues every year just like the MLB does would be great. It would give more locations TV exposure, still draw the revenues, and spread the love around the country for smaller TV markets and NFL teams.
I really enjoy the MLB and NHL All-Star breaks. Filled with events like the Home Run Derby and the NHL skills competitions, these generate more revenue and more excitement for the fan base, and again more TV exposure.
Last year watching Alexander Ovechkin from the Washington Capitals dazzle the crowd with his moves had people talking about him, the Capitals, and hockey for weeks.
You can see how just one player can bring more interest to the sport.
Watching MLB favorites like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder compete in last year's MLB Home Run Derby is a reason to not only generate interest, but to settle a lot of arguments about who has the better long ball.
And you get to see the players take a little break and have some fun with the media and fans alike really making people thankful that we have such wonderful sports in this country.
I noticed this year the 2010 Pro Bowl in Miami has a new fan interactive experience called the Game Day Fan Plaza football experience that will be open to the general public, free of charge, on Pro Bowl Sunday and to ticket-holders only on Super Bowl Sunday.
The "Extra Point Kick" will test your ability to convert an extra point through regulation NFL uprights. "Let It Fly" puts you in the quarterback position and shows you just how far you can toss a spiral down field. Refine your passing skills with the "Quarterback Challenge" by showing off your accuracy on special targets. And once you ace all of those, "Touch Pass" will test your ability to pass with enough arc to clear the defender and enough aim to drop in into the target. (NFL.com )
This kind of reminds me of when I was kid, SEGA Sports (tm) decided to put on an expo at Six Flags over Mid-America in Eureka, Missouri close to where I grew up in St. Louis, Mo. There, the customers were able to punt, pass, kick, and—my favorite—be able to commentate various memorable moments in sports history and record it via VHS and take it home as a memento.
These are things that should be done as part of the Pro Bowl festivities by the players. For example, the top three QBs from the NFC compete on a point-system. They pass for distance, accuracy, and mobility. Then the winner of the NFC in points will play the winner of the AFC and get to earn the title of the best QB in the NFL for that year. Thus laying to rest all the arguments from the ESPN, Fox Sports, and CBS brain trusts.
The WRs and TEs can catch passes and sprint while your CBs defend, the RBs can sprint and display power, and your linemen can life heavy loads, push and pull displaying strength, and display blocking skills. The place kickers can kick for distance and accuracy, and your punters can kick for distance and accuracy while everyone gets concessions.
This is all designed to find out who is the exact best at their position at the end of the year in the NFL, and then you can add the extra incentives if you like, and hold the honor of having the All-NFL team accolades at the end of the year.
Plus a meet and greet for the fans would just be mind blowing.
I decided to write this article because I really have no interest in the Pro Bowl as it stands. When I turn the TV on and see the Pro Bowl, I'm only going to watch it unless something better is on. With the MLB All-Star Game or NHL Skills Competition, I'm going to stick to the tube. It's just that much more exciting to watch.
Generating fan interest is key here.
I understand all the overhead costs to put on such a show, but if other leagues can do it, then I'm sure the NFL can do it.
The NFL Pro Bowl is losing popularity. Fans know it, players don't even want to be a part of it, the media knows it, but I'm not sure if Roger Goodell knows it.
As a fan of the sport, he should be worried about my entertainment needs, not what he thinks of the event. And my opinion is, it stinks. Other fans I discuss this topic with feel that it stinks.
In the end Mr. Goodell, I respectfully disagree that it is gaining popularity.
Hopefully you were entertained by this article. In no way, shape, or form am I affiliated with, employed, or under contract by any major sports leagues. Any and all statistics were taken from works cited publicized Internet sources from the league web sites. I do not take any credit or trademarks for factual information written, just the words of my opinions.