There are so many reasons fans and the NFL are ready to do away with the Pro Bowl. The Super Bowl takes many of the elected starters out, and the wear-and-tear of the season leads many more players to take a pass. No one tries that hard because no one wants to get injured. Practices are barely more than walk-throughs and no coach is going to spend too much time crafting a game plan for a game that doesn’t matter.
The Pro Bowl is rarely, if ever, competitive, and hardly compelling but … so what?
The players get a free vacation out of it, but the fans get something out of it, too. Where else can you see a player get to line up for the opposing team, as NFC center Jeff Saturday did, so that he could give one last snap to AFC quarterback Peyton Manning, with whom he played for 13 seasons? Where else can fans see a 6’5”, 295-pound defensive end line up as a wide receiver, as J.J. Watt did? Or an offensive lineman execute a barrell roll to switch positions, as Jared Allen did last year?
I think it’s kind of cool to see New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees throw a touchdown to Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson. Or Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hit Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the endzone. (Just think – that’s the only time in more than a year that Fitzgerald has had a competent quarterback throw him the ball!) And maybe it’s just me, but I always get a kick out of seeing all the players wearing their individual team helmets with their AFC/NFC jerseys.
Does it really matter that the game isn’t fiercely competitive? It’s a chance for fans to see things that they’d never have a chance to see otherwise. It’s a chance for fans to see some of the greatest athletes in the world goof off. It’s a chance for silly, ridiculous trick plays that no one would ever call in a game. It’s a chance for quarterbacks to throw into triple coverage because the receiver is so amazing he just might come down with it.
I don’t get all the ire that the Pro Bowl seems to cause. It’s not like there’s any other football on TV that day that the Pro Bowl coverage is superseding. If you find it boring, don’t watch. No one is trying to pretend that this is a real game with any real stakes. I don’t see the harm in having a completely meaningless game with no repercussions for the fans to enjoy if they want to. The fact is that the season is over for 30 NFL teams – the Pro Bowl is just a bonus for the fans. That’s worth keeping around.