The NFL announced this past week that there will be a Pro Bowl in 2013 after speculation that Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted to get rid of the All-Star event.
Goodell expressed concerns about the level of competition after this year’s embarrassing display.
In case you missed it, here’s pretty much what happened: defensive linemen rose up out of their stances and watched as the quarterback chucked up 70-yard bombs to seemingly uncovered receivers.
No one got hit, no one played defense, and the game, as ESPN’s James Walker put it, “turned into a glorified flag football game.”
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said that the NFC players “embarrassed” themselves by their obvious lack of effort and many fans and members of the media called it the worst All-Star game ever played.
All of the negativity surrounding the event resulted in Goodell threatening to cancel the game altogether, but the NFLPA and the league agreed to bring the game back on Wednesday after the players promised there would be improvements.
"The players have made it clear through the NFL Players Association that they would like the opportunity to continue to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii," NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson explained in a statement. "We will support the players on this initiative to improve the Pro Bowl. We have had many discussions with the players in recent years about the Pro Bowl and they recognize that the quality of the game has not been up to NFL standards. We look forward to working with the players toward the goal of improving the competitiveness of this season’s game."
At this point though, is it even worth it?
The consensus among NFL coaches and front office executives questioned at the owners meetings is that fixing the Pro Bowl is a lost cause. The game has become irrelevant and a pain to watch. This was most apparent at this year’s game, but the Pro Bowl has sucked for a long time now.
The NBA, MLB and NHL have all found ways to reinvent their respective games and make the events interesting for the fans. The NBA has added several skills competitions, Major League Baseball now awards the winner of its All-Star game with home-field advantage in the World Series, and the NHL designates two team captains and then allows them to hand select their own rosters.
But year after year, the NFL fails to generate any sort of interest for their showcase of stars.
The Pro Bowl will resume in Hawaii on Jan. 27, 2013, one week before the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Right away, this eliminates any star players from the AFC and NFC championship rosters. Then take into account all the players that withdrawal because of injury or because they just don’t want to show up and what you’re left with is a half-assed game that features about half of the talent that it should.
The elite players that actually do show up see about a quarter of action and are most likely only there to give their family members a free vacation to Hawaii.
You can’t even really blame the players that don’t want to play either, though. What’s the point of risking injury - and possibly their careers - in a completely meaningless game? Players don’t actually have to play in the game itself to collect their Pro Bowl bonuses; they just have to be named to the team. This is why so many players elect to pocket the cash and skip out on the game.
"I don't think there's anything that can make the Pro Bowl more competitive," said Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. "Because it's a tough game and guys want to protect themselves. It's a safety issue."
One player that feels passionate about the issue is Jets linebacker Bart Scott. Scott, who was a Pro Bowler in 2006 as a member of the Ravens, voiced his displeasure over the commissioner’s desire to put an end to the event.
"The Pro Bowl was before his reign and will be after his reign, so it's not up to him, I believe, to cancel the Pro Bowl," Scott said. "It's tradition. It's not about the game. It's about the festivities. It's about the fans being able to get close to the players and be there during the week to see the events they do. The game is just a cherry on top."
Scott added that the Pro Bowl is "part of the fabric of football" and even suggested that Goodell “get out there and put a jersey on” if he's so concerned about the quality of play.
At this point, the commissioner himself playing in the Pro Bowl may very well be the media draw that the game needs to become significant again, but it’s most likely not going to happen. Solutions that others have recommended include a cash incentive for the winning team and not allowing players to collect their bonuses unless they play at least a full quarter in the game.
While these may serve as temporary remedies, it’s become quite clear that trying to fix the Pro Bowl is not worth the effort. And unless some drastic changes are implemented, we will most likely see the same uninspired play come this January.