Every professional American sport celebrates its season, its champions, its great players, right in the middle or at the end of the season.
Basketball, hockey, baseball all take a minute of breath, stopping their respective regular season giving a much-needed pause to players, coaches and staff, who travel and play many times per week.
Football, because of its more violent nature, used to play representatives from both Conferences in the week right after the Super Bowl in a beautiful, sunny location called Honolulu.
This seemed logical, because football players get injured more often than in all other sports, and playing it in the middle of the regular season never made sense, since many superstars would risk their health, since every injury could’ve ended a run to the playoffs, or, worse, to the Super Bowl.
This used to be a spectacular game that was created to allow NFL fans to watch the best performers from the best teams playing one against another. Or playing, for this rarely given occasion only, on the same team.
Pro All-Stars Games seem to lose quality year after year.
It happened in every major American sport, particularly in NBA basketball, where the East vs West affair has become a slam dunk contest where any defemse has been sadly erased.
The lack of quality has infected the NFL Pro Bowl too, and just to make things worse, last year the game was moved out of its traditional environment in Honolulu to Miami and was played one week BEFORE the Super Bowl.
Twelve months ago in Miami, we saw a poor show.
Many high-caliber players were injured and opted to remain home, so the two teams were filled with medium-level players.
Worse still, the game that's supposed to showcase the NFL's best talents would've been played without any participant from the two Super Bowl qualifiers.
What owner or coach would dare to permit anyone of his players to perform in a meaningless game only one week before the biggest game of them all?
Imagine the headlines: "Drew Brees tears a ligament in his knee at Pro Bowl, will miss Super Bowl". The Saints’ fans probably would’ve burned the NFL offices to the ground!
Last year Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne were all preparing for Super Sunday.
Also absent were members of the New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings, who exited from playoff contention a week earlier and had nothing else to ask of their legs and muscles after two epic battles.
So, players from the best four teams in NFL were not participating in a game that was supposed to represent NFL at its best.
With all due respect, watching Matt Schaub grabbing the event’s MVP and seeing David Garrard, maybe the AFC’s tenth most prolific quarterback, was not the same as witnessing a great performance by Manning or Brees. But thanks to this turn of events, even Garrard himself can technically be defined as a Pro Bowler.
Another painful aspect was the lack of competition.
Defensive ends never pushed their offensive counterpart to get in other team’s backfield.
Corners didn’t even attempt to break up a pass, watching receptions mount as the ball sailed into their assigned receiver’s hands.
Okay, this game was meant to be funny and we all accept the pats on the back, the smiles, the relaxed atmosphere and the diversified rules to prevent injuries, but the game has to be played.
Last Sunday we saw a one-direction first half, and we asked ourselves if the AFC just forgot to step onto the field. Turnover after turnover, great starting positions for the NFC squad, and a 42-7 score after just 30 minutes of football.
Let’s think: who watched the second half?
This is supposed to be a real game and not a joke, right?
How the NFL can sell a product like this to an audience that every year seems to have enough of it?
The Pro Bowl clearly deserves more than this if it wants to continue its existence.
We want to see the winning and the losing quarterback from the Super Bowl perform, if they get voted.
We desire to watch Calvin Johnson catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, because it can happen only in these circumstances.
We want to enjoy watching Troy Polamalu making plays alongside Champ Bailey.
This aspects represent the Pro Bowl’s magic. providing the matchups that you can only imagine in dreams.
This is want this game was meant to be, and this is what NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell must bring back.
Just put Pro Bowl back in its original place, one week after the Super Bowl, as a season-ending party with spectacular plays and make sure that the players care about it.
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