Let’s face it: the Pro Bowl is nothing more than a popularity contest.
The Pro Bowl is not about showcasing the NFL’s best talent in an exhibition game; it’s about interrupting NFL players from their Hawaiian vacation to watch them play a few series.
How can the most profitable sport in the world have such a horrible All-Star event?
Starting in 2010, the NFL experimented with changing the location and date of the Pro Bowl. Even though they were trying to fix the problem, it made the game even more unattractive because Super Bowl players can no longer play in the game.
The only good idea was to move the game to the Super Bowl location and create a more attractive Super Bowl week and drive up revenues for the home city as well as the NFL. Even though it was a good idea, the league quickly changed their mind after the complaints of millionaire players voicing their opinions to selfishly keep the game in Hawaii (for strictly vacation purposes).
Regardless of where and when the Pro Bowl is played, the glaring need for this game to become attractive has to do with who is actually on the field. Clearly putting the biggest household names on the field to appease the casual fan isn’t working.
Restoring integrity to this game may be the best way to not only increase its popularity but to also make it a “must watch” event for the league’s fan base a la the NHL or MLB equivalents. One thing the NFL needs to do is take out the popularity aspect, and only let deserving players touch the field, no matter how large (or small) their paycheck is.
Since the Pro Bowl isn’t truly “for the fans” (it’s more of an incentive clause in a player’s contract) the fan voting aspect should be eliminated completely. Clearly NFL players and coaches know the other players the best but even they tend to favor the popular players as well.
One option that should be suggested is to eliminate fan voting and replace it with a sports writers/media option. Combining the thoughts of players in addition to those who make their living covering the NFL and staying objective to the whole league may be the best way to evaluate who actually deserves to play in the Pro Bowl.
Why not try it out? Clearly the way things are now isn’t really working.
There are no better people to evaluate a single player’s impact on their team, along with their statistics, as NFL players, coaches and media members. Introducing this selection process will not only put a better product on the field but should make the game more interesting.
The real football fans who can appreciate a player’s effort regardless of the name on the back of their jersey will make it a priority to watch this All-Star event.