During the 1993 Pro Bowl, Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman played only part of the game and didn’t stick around until the end, explaining that he had a flight to catch and couldn’t stay in Hawaii. That didn’t go over well with the league office at the time, but Aikman believes he did the right thing.
Aikman now says that the NFL’s decision in 2023 to turn the Pro Bowl into a skills competition and flag football game is the continuation of a long trend that he started, by making it clear that the players didn’t have to play if they didn’t want to.
“In ’93 at the Pro Bowl, I left early, I left in the third quarter,” Aikman said on KTCK-AM, via the Dallas Morning News. “And I got a picture of me leaving the stadium and it did not go over real well on Park Avenue in New York. And I got summoned to New York to talk with Mr. Paul Tagliabue. I was telling him, I said Commissioner with all due respect, nobody wants to play in this football game. I said they want to go to Hawaii for a week, but no one wants to play in the Pro Bowl.
“I said here’s what I suggest . . . I said, How about we just do like Battle of the Network Stars, only we make a made-for-television type of event and he was not happy about that suggestion either. And it took what 30 years or however long it’s taken to get to this point, but I kind of take credit for that, quite honestly.
“Now, will it be any good? I don’t know, but it’s got to be better than what the game was. But with that being said, the ratings on the Pro Bowl, I don’t watch it, but apparently the ratings on the Pro Bowl lead that time slot every year, which is incredible. I mean, it’s just it really is incredible how powerful even a Pro Bowl game that’s not even legitimate has drawn the ratings that it has over the years.”
Nowadays, quarterbacks of Aikman’s caliber usually don’t even bother to show up at the Pro Bowl at all.