I never thought I’d see the day when I’d care less about the Pro Bowl than I did about, say, the NFL Combine.
Yet, here I am.
Long before the Pro Bowl took place this past Sunday, I knew I wasn’t going to watch it. In fact, I knew it about a year ago when I sat down and took in parts of the 2018 edition with my uncle and cousin. I guess you could say it was the tackling—or lack thereof—that kind of killed whatever interest remained for me in tuning in to see the NFL’s annual gala of all stars (or the guys that make it in because the top all stars don’t want to play) “battle” for conference supremacy. Yes, the very first time I saw running back Le’Veon Bell get “tackled” without actually being taken to the turf in an ill-tempered manner, I just knew I was never going to watch this “event” ever again.
Although, thanks to the tackling stuff, I was able to whip up a nice little satirical/spoof piece starring new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner that made more people hate me—I was very proud.
So what can be done to make the NFL’s Pro Bowl more appetizing to the viewing and, yes, ticket buying public?
How about nothing?
What’s left to do? You’ve already changed the format so many times that even Deion Sanders was a coach for one of the teams a few years ago. And if I’m not mistaken, Jerry Rice coached the other team. Also, there wasn’t a team named “AFC” or one called “NFC,” just squads named “Team Primtime and Team Rice” or whatever (hey, if they’re too lazy to tackle in the game, I’m going to be too lazy to do actual research on the game).
Now we’re back to the more traditional format, only without tackling and stuff that makes a game footballish. And I don’t even blame the players for not wanting to tackle or the players for not wanting to play non-tackling football out of fear that they’ll still hurt themselves.
Heck, every other all star format in professional sports—including the NBA, NHL and MLB—has lost its luster, its appeal. If the players in those leagues, in those all star games, don’t care, why should guys who actually have to hit one another for a living go to such physical lengths in a game that doesn’t count?
Face it, we’ve pretty much evolved as a society (well, the people not on social media, anyway). Gone are the days when you’d get an actual thrill from seeing Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson talk shop on the very same baseball diamond. Gone are the days when you’d be genuinely surprised to see Jack Lambert pat Jack Tatum on the butt after a nice tackle (“Aren’t those guys mortal enemies? What’s next? Is Marlena going to appear on the same NBC Thanksgiving Day Parade float as Stefano?”).
We’re also all a little too aware of things these days—including the professional athletes. Winning is everything in society now, and nobody wants to invest emotionally or physically if there isn’t some sort of legacy attached to the outcome. New flash: there is no legacy attached to winning an all star game (although, there was that dark period when Major League Baseball decided to award home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the MLB All Star Game).
Try as every league might, there is very little chance you’ll get people to care about all star games as much as they used to—if they even did back in the old days.
Having said all that, all star games—including the Pro Bowl—will continue to exist. And, believe it or not, people will still attend and tune in—the Pro Bowl generates higher ratings than the Stanley Cup Final (man, am I going to use that factoid to troll some hockey fans in the near future).
So, see you in 2020, when I write another article about how I didn’t watch the Pro Bowl.