The best Pro Bowl would be no Pro Bowl

Kent Nishimura

The NFL has been trying to tweak its annual all-star game, the Pro Bowl, for a number of years. However, instead of tweaking something most people don't really want, why not just get rid of it?

It's always been a "Jump the Shark" tradition in television to take a show that's clearly seen its best days and either add a young child--think cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch or Olivia on The Cosby Show (hey, I just noticed the "Olive" twist. Conspiracy, perhaps?)--or even spin the show off by giving Grady Wilson (Sanford and Son) a back story and his own family.

As you might guess when I included the phrase "Jump the Shark," tweaking a show or spinning it off hardly ever works, even though many executive producers, writers and network heads have tried and tried and tried some more over the years.

If something has seen its best day; if you hit Season 5, and Michael Westen is no longer helping his "client of the week," it's simply time to pull the plug and move on to something fresh.

That's how I feel about the NFL's Pro Bowl.

I used to care about the Pro Bowl back when the Steelers were either mediocre or AFC runner-ups, and it was the last time I would get to see my boys in Black and Gold play before the long offseason.

"Hey, look, there's Louis Lipps catching a pass from Dan Marino. Groovy!"

But that was a long time ago. Now that I've seen epic stories like the Harrison Hundred and Antonio Brown's helmet catch, what do I care about some 65-51 football game played in late January with nothing on the line?

Most players don't seem to care, as many who are elected suddenly come down with Pro Bowlitis and are "forced" to miss the contest, while their alternates take their place (unless the alternate also suffers from the same illness).

Speaking of tweaks, the NFL decided to add a cousin Oliver to the Pro Bowl a few years ago by moving the game from its more traditional week after the Super Bowl to the week in-between. The reasoning being that if it was held the week before the league championship, many more people would care because they would still be emotionally invested in watching football.

However, it's now become the game that all participants who are on playoff teams hope they miss, because that would mean they actually made it to the Super Bowl (Pro Bowl participants of the conference champions are held out for fear of injury).

In fact, during the NBC telecast of the Pro Bowl on January 26, I almost guarantee you play-by-play man Al Michaels will interview a participant in Super Bowl XLVIII during the game, and after the interview is conducted, he'll say something like, "That was so and so, who was elected to the Pro Bowl, but is obviously glad he couldn't play in this game as he gears up for next week's championship showdown at MetLife Stadium."

Since the "cute child" element didn't spruce up the Pro Bowl, the NFL has now decided to spin it off into a conference-less contest, and name past greats (for Season 1, Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice) team captains, who will then draft the already elected players onto their respective teams and play the game that way.

Can you imagine Troy Polamalu trying to cover Antonio Brown? That would surely be something.

Actually it wouldn't, and I can't wait to hear the fan out-rage when Brown is selected behind Calvin Johnson, and Polamalu isn't selected by Sanders (both of those things could very well happen, by the way).

I stopped caring about the Pro Bowl a long time ago, and these latest tweaks and spins aren't going to make me tune into NBC in a couple of weeks.

If the NFL really wants to spruce things up, just get rid of the Pro Bowl and shine a brighter light on All-Pro selections.

After all, an All-Pro honor doesn't require a player to show up and play a meaningless game.

Have an awards show similar to what the NHL produces; schedule it the weekend before the Super Bowl, invite the All-Pro nominees (heck, all the nominees for every award available--including league MVP) and unveil the winners live.

Would it still be hard to get people to care? Perhaps, but people might actually care more.

The NFL's all-star game has been up against it since its inception because it can't be played in the middle of the season like the other professional sports leagues (injury concerns), and it's played right around the time of the league's signature event (the Super Bowl). Therefore, instead of trying to tweak something most of us simply don't want, why not just get rid of the whole thing?

At least then we won't have to get angry when Neon Deion doesn't pick Troy in the draft.

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