Pro Bowl endures, somehow

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Once upon a time, the Pro Bowl was a big deal. But that was before the players began to realize that, in the business that is pro football, they need to think like businessmen.

The result, predictably and justifiably, became a game that entails far less hitting, far less intensity, and (in turn) far fewer injuries. And no one should blame the players for that; anyone who has made it through a full season healthy enough to suit up one last time should be wary about suiting up one last time, since that could result in spending the only free weeks and months of the year recovering from surgery. For players about to become free agents, it could diminish or destroy their earning potential.

From time to time, the NFL huffs and puffs about the quality of the game. Efforts have been made to make it more interesting (more accurately, less uninteresting), but nothing can make it into something it isn’t, something it shouldn’t even aspire to be.

And yet it endures. Even if it takes an Oprah-spray of invitations to fill up two rosters with a reward that has shifted from the seclusion of Hawaii to touristy bustle of Orlando, the revenue generated by the game outweighs the costs of staging it. As long as that’s the case, the NFL will continue to present the Pro Bowl.

Still, nothing about it moves the modern needle. The skills competition, added last year in response to suggestions that the NFL should hold a skills competition instead of the Pro Bowl, already has gone from being a curiosity to irrelevant. Compounding the problem is the fact that ESPN, which televised the skills competition, can’t figure out whether to play it straight or to treat it like an hour-long joke with no punchline.

The Pro Bowl will continue to have no punch, until the point at which it generates no profit. And that will be the point that it goes away.

82 responses to “Pro Bowl endures, somehow

  1. It’s like the dunk contest. If you offer more money, they will play harder. Offer a million to each player on winning team and 250k to each player on losing team, then I promise you it will look like a playoff game.

  2. Time to end playing the game. Name the players to the team and it will again mean something to be named. That way so-called injuries won’t cause half the players to drop out and less deserving players get names….thereby watering down what it means to be a Pro Bowler.
    i.e. Teddy Bridgewater a few seasons was named to the Pro Bowl after 5 other QBs dropped out. I think he had 14 TDs and 9 INTs.

  3. Can’t blame the players at all, we’d all approach it the same way.

    We’re only seeing a fraction of the players at their best.

    It’s the most unrealistic All-Star type game in sports. Haven’t watched it for many years.

  4. The pro bowl is an exhibition game, no different than the the other three major sports all star games, except, that for some reason, people want to take the pro bowl seriously.

    It’s an exhibition game. If you don’t want to watch then don’t. But all the complaining ruins it for the people who realize it’s an exhibition game, and not to be taken seriously.

    I have watched it since I was 10 years old, all the while realizing that it’s not real, and therefore not to be taken seriously.

    The MLB foolishly tied home field advantage of the world series to their all star game. It was stupid because it’s an exhibition game, and NOT to be taken seriously.

  5. It must be Doomsday….I agree with Florio 100%. The game is terrible, poses risks even in its terrible state, and really isn’t very much fun. Moving it to Orlando was not a good move from the players’ end (at least they got Hawaii), and the moves they have made through the years to make it less uninteresting have not worked. It is time to give up on this farce. I won’t be watching it today.

  6. 1999 Rookie Beach Bowl
    A “brilliant” idea to add flavor to the ProBowl.
    The last year I wanted any Patriots player to go near this nonsense.

  7. Saw a group picture of the 9 Steelers down there…..and the coaching staff.

    Don’t need a reminder of massive underachievement……and bereavement.

  8. Drop the game for good, make it fun. Skills challenges and let them play Madden on PS4 against one another, let them play billiards, darts, trivia. Stuff that will not get them injured.

  9. At least there’s a resemblance of defense in this game compared to the joke that is the NBA All Star game! If the NFL, NBA and NHL were smart, which they’re not, they’d get rid of all three games.

  10. Another year another Pro Bowl. I wouldn’t walk across the street to watch this if given free tickets.

  11. There is really no way to hold a true NFL All-star game that actually means anything. Plus, the risk of injuries is too great. No one wants to be hurt in a meaningless game, so the players don’t go full out. Who wants to watch half-hearted efforts?

    By the way, the NFL REALLY needs to cut the exhibition/preseason games down to two. If coaches can’t make up their minds about roster cuts after two 60-minute preseason games, then they’re not very competent. And since the exhibtion games are all about dollars for the owners, why not do this: trim the preseason games to two, then add two games to the regular season. You’d still have the same number of games, no one would lose any money, and the fans would be rewarded with more games that actually count in the standings.

    Of course, the NFLPA would fight this tooth-and-nail. They’re dead set against expanding the regular season–and if we were talking about adding more actual games, I’d agree with them. However, the total number of games, whether preseason or regular season, would be exactly the same. The odds of injuries won’t increase because the players won’t be on the field any more than they already are. What’s the problem? (And if you really care about player safety, get rid of the Thursday night games. Too many people get hurt in those.)

  12. Make 4 teams of QB’s, RB, TE, WR and LB and DB’s. Play a round robin 7 on 7 tournament.

    Name “Pro Bowl” selections at the other positions for incentive purposes. Should be about a 2 hour event, which is perfect.

  13. Don’t try to play a game. Sell “fan experience”, autographs, selfies, skills challenges, etc… and I bet you could make a lot more money. And do it in the same city as the Super Bowl or take it back to Hawaii. Why are they in Orlando? Why do you need coaches or referees? Have a QB challenge… a kicker’s challenge… a receiver’s challenge… world’s fastest challenge… a lineman eating contest… and everyone can sign stuff that is for sale. Hell, sell a special $100 football that all the players you can track down will sign. And then sell the $50 protective case for the football.

  14. I didn’t mean you should eat the linemen. I meant the linemen could have a hot dog eating contest… or pies… or barbecue.

  15. Of all the strange things people choose to have an opinion about, this one is one of the strangest. It’s an exhibition football game on television. You can watch it or you cannot watch it. That decision should be the extent of all your thoughts about the Pro Bowl.

  16. I agree with getting rid of the game. Still vote and honor the popular players. Maybe have some kind of skills challenge with substantial cash prizes. Or maybe just have a game between all the players making league minimum. the money would mean more to them and half those guys careers is only going to be a year or two, it would be a much better game

  17. I’ll never understand why people tune into ANY all-star game expecting intense serious competition. They are by nature meant to be light hearted and not taken seriously. If people just understood them for what they are, this wouldn’t be an issue.

    And if you want to take it seriously, then it’s simple. It’s called gambling. Putting some money on Team Irvin and the AFC the last few years has made my Pro Bowl viewing experience rather enjoyable.

    But either way, it’s not a big deal. Watch it, don’t watch it, put it on for background noise while you vacuum and make dinner, WHATEVER. This whole “i don’t like something so i’m gonna complain about it until it’s abolished” attitude people have just doesn’t make sense to me.

  18. If you dont like it? Than dont watch it. But just because you personally dont like it doesn’t mean it should go away.

    I dont mind if they dont go bezerker on each other while they are on vacation, its still kind of interesting if you dont have a bloodlust to see these guys concuss each other. I like seeing my guys one last time before the off season and seeing all the talent on the field at once even if its not 100%.

    So what? I dont watch The Grammys, because I think its stupid(and you could make the argument the performers dont go 100 because they dont play full sets), that doesn’t mean I think it should go away. I just choose to do something else.

    There is A LOT of anti-Pro Bowl energy, I just feel bad people just cant find a way to put that energy into something productive in their lives rather than just piling on.

    P.S. No sane human being is going to watch a skills competition, talk about LAME. Seriously, who has time to actually sit down and watch that?! Especially with the Olympics coming up(which is kind of lame in and of itself)

  19. Skills competition – I actually want to WATCH it, not some stupid dramatized rehash where you see like 20% or less of the actual competition.

    Pro-bowl – Just make it flag football. It would actually be fun to watch if they were playing hard, which they might if there’s no contact.

  20. The week AFTER the superbowl, buy all the pro-bowl players a ticket to Hawaii for a week of relaxing in the sun, have a awards show on TV, and show a few highlights of each player.

  21. If the NFL wants a better game, they may need to give these players insurance policies against injuries. Otherwise, there is no reason to play hard in this game.

  22. also, just out of curiousity, what is percentage of the original players chosen for the pro bowl scheduled to play in the game currently…inquiring minds want to know…could pft tell us?

  23. I’m older than Florio, and I don’t remember this: “Once upon a time, the Pro Bowl was a big deal.” I don’t think it ever was. Being named can be a big deal to players and fans, but the event itself was always a dud.

    All-star games are a relic of an age when it was hard see games. When I was a kid a very long time ago, I lived in a small town, so the only coverage I had of pro sports was national network broadcasts–there was no local team. So if I wanted to see players that I had heard of, there were one or two games on per week, with no recording–if you had to be somewhere, you missed that week’s game. And the same few teams were always in the broadcast–8 or 10 teams, over and over. For an NBA fan, there was no chance to see Tiny Archibald play–he was on bad teams. I saw photographs of Geoff Petrie’s shot, but never actually saw him take a shot–the Trail Blazers weren’t on TV. The NBA all-star game was the only chance to see these guys play. The same was true for baseball–you’d hear about Nolan Ryan, but he played for the Angels, and they were never on TV. If you wanted to see his fastball, you had to watch the all-star game. That’s why these games had some appeal–there weren’t nearly as many opportunities to see the players on TV that you had heard of.

    But the Pro Bowl was always a dud, never anything else. The same logic would seem to apply, that it gives you a chance to see players–but everyone always understood that there was no point in watching it–it just doesn’t provide an actual game of football to watch. It’s gross, and it always was, even when other all-star games were sort of cool.

  24. Yeah yeah, the yearly crusade against the existence of the Pro Bowl. I don’t care about it, but why not have it? It seems a fun breath of fresh air for the guys following an intense season. I’d just rather it be after the Super Bowl, because guys who don’t deserve it replace Super Bowl players.

  25. Pro Bowl should be a posthumous award.

    No Owner or fans want to see their favorite players injure or destroy a career over a game that has absolutely no meaning.

    NFL is not fooling anybody.

  26. Maybe the NFLPA needs to work it into the next CBA before they get rid of it. If player safety is a concern, why have this needless exhibition and risk injury?

  27. Too bad the NFL hasn’t yet ripped an idea from the NHL: four games of 7 on 7 ,(no kick-offs; running clock). One team from each division. Mini-play-off culminating in a championship. Players whose teams do not make the final can serve as officials and sideline reporters. It might present the dynamic of a Sanskrit game,but at least it would be fun to watch. Player/refs could pay back bad calls/cheap hits from earlier in the season; player reporters could exercise their abilities in calling play by play or throwing shade. Think about it.

  28. Steal from the NHL: Set up playoffs of 7:7 teams; one from each division. Let other players officiate and / or report from sideline to troll or extoll the other players. The games would take on the dynamics of sandlot flag football, but they would not be boring to watch.

  29. It should be nothing but Hail Marys, each offense gets the ball on the 50 and has one play to score. If not, other conference offense gets the ball on the 50, they go back and forth for the whole 60 minutes. Interceptions can be run back for touchdowns, point after and two point conversions are OK. (IDK of a way to include punters).

    Winning players get four times the money the losing team does (whatever that is). Maybe give the winning conference an extra time-out per half in the SB.

  30. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in at least 20 years – but here’s what I WOULD watch

    Make the last place team in the NFL play the 1st place team from the NCAA

    Sure it’d be humiliating if an actual NFL team lost – which makes it a great way to prevent teams from fixing games and trying to tank to get the #1 pick!

  31. You gotta admit that it some brilliant marketers to come up the concept of a pro-bowl game that includes all of the league’s best players except for the ones that play on the two best teams.

    Right outta the gate it’s the loser-bowl, as exemplified by 9 Steelers all mugging in front of the cameras at once.

  32. You know, if there NFL owners & players understood COMPROMISE, they could try something like this:

    They would AGREE to add ONLY ONE more “nuetral site game (17 games NOT 18) – AND one more bye. EACH team would have one NON home/away game AT A SITE THE NFL ISNT currently playing at. This not only allows London, Mexico etc – bvut also allows the NFL to TEST a game in other cities (IE Cinci plays one game in Columbus, “LA” Chargers play one game in SanDiego, Vegas Raiders play one game in Oakland, Detroit plays one in Toronto, etc.)


    > owners get TWO more “actual “competitive games/TV dates (17th game & 2nd bye) – players paid more too…
    >the exhibition season would become TWO preseason games (one dress rehearsal.)
    > Players only play Thursdays AFTER one of their byes-(owners solidify Thursdays.)
    > US cities without teams get THEIR OWN game (those cities could likely fill one “special event” a yr.).. creating EXCITEMENT for the “extra-game” instead of an exhibition.
    > Fans and teams ALWAYS get EIGHT home games (no more need to “sacrifice” for London etc)

    Talking about THESE types of possibilities can make a WIN-WIN for ALL…players owners and FANS… and its SAFER and FAIRER..MORE games THAT COUNT for fans (and more profitable for ALL)

  33. When exactly was the Pro Bowl a big deal? Maybe when the NFL was playing the college all-stars. Since then it’s just an exhibition. Only the media thinks it should be a competitive game. Same story every year. One of my favorite games of the year. Don’t care who wins and the players are just having fun. Love it. And today’s game was great.

  34. Unbelievable whining. NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO WATCH IT. You don’t like it, then read a book, go catch a show, take your kids out, etc. Some of us just like the friendly atmosphere of the stars of the game and are not looking for a bone-crushing, battle-to-the-death football match.

  35. I’ll say it again, if you want interest in the Pro Bowl to grow again, put it back where it actually generated interest; after the SB. You would get SB participants playing in the game. Often, it’s like a mini rematch between participants of the SB. Right now, the PB is a place holder for the SB and it was never meant to be that. It was meant to be the conclusion of the NFL season.

  36. Subjectively speaking, I feel like it’s lost some of it’s entertainment value since moving from Honolulu. It had a different feel in Honolulu. Orlando is where you have a AC Repair convention.

  37. There was a Pro Bowl this weekend? The Pro Bowl jumped the shark a decade ago. Stop having the game. It would be cool if they brought back the NFL strongest, fastest man though.

  38. Why not play the players more except all the money has to go to the social justice cause of their choice. That should make the players risk injury or show they really don’t care about these causes.

  39. This was the first year I actually watched part of the pro bowl (flipped back and forth to the NHL All Stars) and only because the Steelers had 9 players in it (10 if Ryan Shazier could’ve played) and the entire Steelers coaching staff for the AFC. Otherwise, pfffft. No interest.

  40. robigd says:
    January 28, 2018 at 10:23 am
    It’s like the dunk contest. If you offer more money, they will play harder. Offer a million to each player on winning team and 250k to each player on losing team, then I promise you it will look like a playoff game.


    And THAT will be the point at which it generates no profit. … problem solved.

  41. Here’s an idea for an alternative to a game…

    I swear that when I was a kid there used to be a team skills or all-star challenge where a baseball team would compete against a football team. These would pit teams like the Phillies vs the Cowboys in a series of events like an obstacle course, a tire flipping contest, relay races, and would always end with a tug of war. Why can’t they do something like this to replace the pro-bowl, where they form teams based upon players from one division to compete against the other divisions?

  42. I swear that when I was a kid there used to be a team skills or all-star challenge where a baseball team would compete against a football team. These would pit teams like the Phillies vs the Cowboys in a series of events like an obstacle course, a tire flipping contest, relay race


    It was called ‘The Superstars’

  43. This is such a simple problem to fix. Winners should receive a much larger payout. On top of that, the league should be required to take out an insurance policy that covers an absurd amount of money for injury. If there is a large reward, and future financial risks are mitigated through an insurance policy, the players have all the incentives to play hard.

  44. I recall the Robert Edwards incident as being a turning point where teams and players both started rethinking their involvement in the Pro Bowl. Had they not taken an edge iff the game play they probably would have trouble getting participants by this point. It would be the ‘third string practice squad guys trying to get noticed any way they can’ bowl.

    And for Edwards it wasnt even the game itself where that happened.

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