NFL Pro Bowl: Why Is This Game Still Played? A Commentary on Elimination

Mike RCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2011

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 29:  Football fans shop for officially licensed NFL merchandise at the NFL Shop while visiting the NFL Experience exhibit at the Dallas Convention Center on January 29, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. The 850,000 square foot NFL theme park is open to fans leading up to Super Bowl XLV.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Today the NFC and AFC squads square off in quasi-competition known as the NFL Pro Bowl. My question is, why?

When I look at the other professional sports leagues, only one has a meaningful all-star game — Major League Baseball. The NBA has a lot of other events to encircle their game's weekend — Slam Dunk Competition, 3 Point Contest, etc. In Major League Baseball, the home field advantage for the victorious League is determined as a result of the game's final score.

Now think of the National Football League:

- No home field advantage being determined ("home" team in the Super Bowl is determined by the odd (home team is NFC) or even (home team is NFC) number of the Super Bowl). The thought of teams' respective stadiums hosting the Super Bowl is an argument in and of itself, but it is fun to think of a Super Bowl in Green Bay (especially being a Packers fan). The NFL could easily implement home field determination — today's game for instance, would determine where Super Bowl XLVI would be played.

- No extraneous activities throughout the week leading up to the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl is played in Hawaii, the time zone would allow for activities to take place during the day leading up to the Pro Bowl in prime time on the mainland. Not sure if these would be a draw or not (only so many people would be interested in seeing if the NFC's quarterback could throw the ball through the tire, how fast the starting running back could run the forty yard dash, etc.), but at least it would supplement the week with something outside of the game.

- No game(?) Most of the games end in shoot-out types of scores. The last time a team scored less than 20 points was in February of 2006 (AFC scored 17). The game holds no bearing or impact on the NFL's championship game, nobody watches it when it's on TV (largely due to the reasons listed above), so why play the game? In a sport as violent as football, why is an exhibition game needed to end the season? In college, unless a player is looking to raise his draft stock (e.g. Tim Tebow playing in the Senior Bowl/Army Bowl/any bowl he could suit up for in the spring of 2010), All-Americans don't play a game after bowl season. College players are the most exploited athletes in sports entertainment, and even they won't sign off on a fluff game. Why not list AFC and NFC All-Pro squads, and leave it at that?

These are just three cases for either modifying and improving the Pro Bowl, or eliminating it altogether. I'd be interested to see if the Pro Bowl is not used as a bargaining chip in the upcoming labor negotiations this spring.