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The NFL Pro Bowl is still real to me, no matter what you say!

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The NFL Pro Bowl is now a shell of its former self. You can’t blame anyone involved for taking the violence out of the event. But you also can’t blame people like me for finding other things to do with their time.

NFL Pro Bowl

Real boring, that is.

Sorry for the misleading headline (again), but how was I supposed to get you to click on an article about the 2020 Pro Bowl unless I pretended that it’s still Must Watch TV for me?

Fact is, the Pro Bowl wasn’t always boring to me. There was a time when I really treasured seeing all those Steelers, the best representatives from the best gosh darn team in all of professional and college athletics, mix it up with the best players from all of those other teams.

Remember the 2004 season and the disappointment that concluded it, namely the Patriots walking into Heinz Field and running away with the AFC championship en route to yet another Super Bowl title?

For a Steelers team that finished 15-1, it was quite the tear-inducing final chapter. Speaking of tears, legendary receiver Hines Ward shed a few the very next day. He was sad, not only for the depressing ending to Pittsburgh’s promising season, but for the possible conclusion of Jerome Bettis’ career.

Like fans often do when their football team only loses one game the entire season, I had my hopes soaring quite high by the time the Steelers advanced to the playoffs. I’m pretty sure my uncle, who I watched just about every game with that year, was feeling the same way.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, that 41-27 loss to New England, but three weeks later, following a Patriots’ Super Bowl victory that I barely watched, I was back at my uncle’s house, watching Hines and the rest of the Steelers do their thing at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

Not only did Ward score a couple of touchdowns in the game, he did a hula dance after at least one of them.

It was a comforting and, dare I say, therapeutic way to end the 2004/2005 season.

Fast-forward to two winters ago, and there I was with my uncle and cousin watching the 2018 Pro Bowl. I don’t know if it was because of all the championship success the Steelers began to experience after that 2004 season, but I hadn’t really paid much attention to the event over the previous decade and a half.

Boy, what a change. No kickoffs. Worse yet, pseudo tackling.

Needless to say, we changed the channel and started watching another farce of an all-star game—the NHL’s annual All-Star Game.

But you can at least get behind some gimmicky hockey or basketball. It’s still enjoyable when those sports leave defense out of the equation. Football, on the other hand? Not so much.

You can’t really blame the NFL for taking the violence out of the Pro Bowl. You can’t blame the players for not wanting to participate these days. The league has come a long way since that time Hines did his hula dance at the Pro Bowl.

Players are more aware of the dangers of the game of football. Society is more aware of them, as well.

And that’s why I don’t really mind at all that they’ve reduced the event down to a literal shell of its former self.

But I won’t be watching at 3 p.m. EST. Instead, I’ll be doing a stair-climbing workout with some friends.

Nope, the Pro Bowl is no longer Must See TV.

My, how times have changed.