The NFL has announced sweeping changes to the Pro Bowl, a game that has been undermined in recent years by a lack of player effort.
It’s a lack of player effort we understand and support. After getting through the regular season (and, for many of the Pro Bowl players, part of a postseason) healthy enough to suit up and play, why risk injury in a meaningless game played in late January?
The question becomes even tougher to resolve in favor of playing for those players who are due to become free agents in a matter of weeks.
So how will the new changes make players who understandably aren’t inclined to play hard go out and play hard?
The answer is they won’t. But the changes to the process may provide sufficient novelty to make a half-speed game with half-assed effort (again, understandable) more intriguing.
If it works, the credit for saving a game the NFL apparently wanted to dump goes to NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth, who came up with proposal on which the new format is based.
“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” Foxworth said in a league-issued release. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”
The league liked what Foxworth suggested.
“We were very receptive to the ideas that Domonique and the players put forth,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “From there, our office worked closely with him in developing the concept. The players made it clear that they wanted to continue the Pro Bowl and were committed to making it better than ever. We think these changes will enhance the game for both fans and players.”
It won’t make players play harder. But the game will be different. Whether that means it will be different enough to allow the game to continue over the long haul depends on how the new approach is received.