Is there a more meaningless contest in professional sport than the Pro Bowl? As an exercise in utter pointlessness, it appears to be without equal. And now, thanks to the avarice of the NFL itself, it has become even more meaningless than ever.
To my mind, the Pro Bowl always laboured under two basic deficiencies. The first was that the players selected to it were chosen with such a huge chunk of the season still to run, meaning that there was no opportunity to take account of performances in the late season and the playoffs.
I remember vividly the 2007 game, when the Vikings provided 1/3 of the game's starters despite the fact that, for that latter part of the season, they sucked.
And that is before you consider the number of injuries which occur during those games, meaning that a good proportion of those selected never make it to the game anyway.
Then there is the problem that the two participant sides are coached by active NFL coaching staffs. No coach, faced with coaching a team whose players are drawn from the squads of his regular season opponents, is going to give away anything.
So the game consists of two sides each running the same obvious plays that have been standard issue for every playbook since about 1965, with the odd gadget play thrown in to keep the Hawaiian crowd interested.
In fact, the only reason that any points get scored in this game is because no-one can be bothered to tackle, either. After all, it is the end of the season and no-one really wants to get hurt in a nothing game.
And now, because the game is played on the weekend before the Super Bowl and not the one after it, the NFL has rendered the whole thing even more devoid of meaning than it was before.
By excluding the players who make it to the Super Bowl, which arguably means some of the best players in their position over the season, what the NFL has done it to turn the whole event into a sort of consolation prize for those who didn't make it to the season's big finale.
I know that Roger Goodell thinks that this is a good thing, because it shortens the season by a week, but frankly it is a hollow excuse.
What really happened was that someone with a calculator at NFL Towers spotted that there was a 'dead' week in the schedule and decided to fill it, in the hope that with the season not fully over more than the traditional one man and his dog might switch on to watch it, thereby boosting television revenue both now and in the future.
In short, the Pro Bowl is now little more than an irrelevance, a sinecure for the chosen few in the Hawaiian sun. I don't know why I get worked up about something so pointless, but the way the NFL treat this event really galls me.
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