One of the first things I do when debating the career of an NFL player—past or present—is Google the amount of Pro Bowls on his resume.
If it’s a huge number, I’m impressed.
Of course, I couldn’t tell you a thing about any of that player’s Pro Bowl appearances. I can’t recall if his team won any of the games, if he played well in any of them, if he was ever named MVP, etc.
The last time I sat down to watch the NFL Pro Bowl was back in 2018. It was the same day the NHL held its All-Star Game, or tournament, or whatever that league was/is doing with that “event” these days. I do know it was gimmicky.
As for that day’s Pro Bowl, it was a joke. Nobody tackled, as the name of the game was “Hold ‘em Up Until They Blow The Whistle.” That was in stark contrast to the old days of football when most defenders— whether it was in the preseason, regular season or postseason—loved to employ the “Hold’em Up So I Can Get A Kill Shot” method.
Clearly, times had evolved. Players were more concerned with putting their health in danger for a meaningless exhibition game than they were with claiming AFC/NFC superiority.
I wasn’t disgusted as I watched that game. In fact, I hadn't even planned on viewing it. I was with my cousin and uncle and we had just watched “Major League,” a movie about a sad-sack Cleveland baseball franchise that was hellbent on “Winning the Whole “freakin” thing.”
We just happened to tune into this game for kicks and giggles and could not believe how far it had devolved from actual football. However, we all understood what we were witnessing: Millionaire football players making business decisions and not sacrificing their bodies for a sport that wasn’t going to be very sympathetic if they got injured in a game that had no championship implications.
That was actually the first Pro Bowl I had witnessed in probably a decade. Years before the NFL began its movement to make the sport of football safer, I realized that a professional football game that didn’t count—especially one that was played a week before or a week after the Super Bowl—no longer got me excited.
Why? I guess I was growing up. I also no longer cared about the MLB All-Star Game, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and boxing matches involving celebrities.
That brings me to the now and the NFL’s announcement on Monday that it will finally eliminate the Pro Bowl—starting in 2023—and replace it with a week of skill competitions followed by a flag football game. I don’t know much more than that because I haven’t looked that deeply into it.
Why should I? It’s football that doesn’t count. Actually, it’s not even football. These are events that will promote the sport of football and the National Football League. That’s what the Pro Bowl game was actually all about, anyway, right? That was especially the case when it was held in Hawaii each and every season. No, the state has never had an NFL team, but it does love football and certainly embraced the game when it was played there annually.
It had recently been held in Orlando, Florida, a city and a state that loves football but already has plenty of it.
Did the people of Orlando care about the Pro Bowl when it was still kind of real football?
I’m not sure, but, again, I stopped caring about that game a long time ago. The NFL tried to gimmick up the event in recent years with the help of legends like Deion Sanders, but even he couldn’t make it a primetime game again.
The NFL has named an annual All-Pro Team for as long as I can remember, a distinction that seems to carry more weight than the Pro Bowl, anyway.
Yes, players get bonuses based on Pro Bowl appearances, but why can’t those incentives be transferred over to All-Pro selections?
In conclusion, there was only one way the NFL could fix the Pro Bowl, and that was to stop having it.
Looks like the league finally got it right.