As All-Star games go, the NFL Pro Bowl is by far the most boring and least fun to watch as a fan. We get players who are disinterested in the game, playing in front of a half-empty stadium, in a city that most fans can’t afford to visit.
It’s time for the league to make some drastic changes or just do away with the playing of the game in whole. Very few of the players who are voted in or selected end up playing due to the scheduling of the event, and the Honolulu venue makes it nearly impossible for most fans to attend the game.
The NHL, NBA and MLB all make their All-Star weekends a fan-involved event, hosted at one of the league’s home stadiums. The Pro Bowl has become nothing more than a Hawaiian vacation for the players who are chosen to go. Great fun for the legions of NFL fans who inhabit the Hawaiian islands, but for the rest of the football watching world, it usually ends up being a wasted few hours of television viewing they only wish they could get back.
While every All-Star game has some level of fan voting involvement, only the NFL basically excludes the fans once the team selections have been made. For a league that is as progressive as they come in professional sports, it would seem they are missing out on some extra goodwill and revenue from the fans by using the current format.
First of all, the game is scheduled one week before the Super Bowl is played. This makes little sense, given that usually more than a handful of the best players are on the best teams who are set to participate in the Super Bowl, which would preclude them from participating in the Pro Bowl for fear of injury. So once again, the fan’s voice (although at times misguided) is basically ignored. At least when the game was held after the season had ended, every player who was voted in or selected to play had the opportunity to actually play in the game.
Then there’s the question of location. Sure, it’s a nice perk for players to get an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii, and to enjoy a weekend with their families after the grueling season, but aren’t All-Star games supposed to be for the fans? Outside of some brave and dedicated fans on the west coast of the United States, you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans who are willing to invest the time and expense to go see a game as far away as the Pro Bowl that ends up being half-heartedly played.
Why not set the Pro Bowl venue as the city of the team who lost the previous season’s Super Bowl? Give the fans whose team came “close but no cigar” a treat for the great season their team had. Boost attendance by giving that city a full season to prepare for the festivities. Have skill competitions, fan-fests and other activities to make it a full-fledged All-Star event. Television viewership would go up, ticket sales would go up, and the desire for players to actually participate in the game would go up when they are actually playing for fans who care.
If the NFL isn’t willing to make changes to the Pro Bowl selection, scheduling and location, it’s best to do what commissioner Roger Goodell has talked about - just do away with the game altogether and make it nothing more than a paper honor for the players. The players will still get their bonuses, and fans will be spared being subjected to such a bland and meaningless exhibition.