Pro Bowl Problems

The Pro Bowl has become a bit like one of those colds you get every winter, you know it’s going to happen, there’s nothing you can do about it. The best you can do is hope to get through it with as much dignity as possible and hope you don’t sneeze on too many people. Every year you try a different remedy, a different concoction of tablets and powders take on more vitamin C in a New Year’s resolution and still it hits you.

So, like the inevitable snotty rags of winter the Pro Bowl is on the way and to be honest the way I’ve sort of introduced it is part of the problem.

There’s a massive stigma about this game which doesn’t help but does highlight some of the game’s biggest problems. It’s not very competitive, the players don’t care too much about it and the franchises positively hate it, they hate having their players out playing unnecessary games, particularly when it’s not for them. From the franchises point of view it’s like lending your favourite DVD/Blu-Ray to someone who you’re confident is going to give it you back as if they’d kicked it back to you on a gravel track.

Like the annual sneeze fest getting rid of it is harder than it seems, it does engage with the fans and if nothing else provides a half decent benchmarking of a player for the rest of us. Pro Bowl players are typically good, although the popularity contest does mean you tend to get the odd player who deserves a nod missing out. Also, it helps players across the range of positions achieve recognition for their play, particularly for those players in some of the more unsexy spots on the roster.

Clearly the drafted idea wasn’t working either as for 2016 we’re back to AFC vs NFC, if legendary players playing real-life fantasy football didn’t get the fans in and the players motivated then I don’t know what will. The players are incentivised to turn up, each player on the losing team gets $28,000 and the winning team $55,000 but if you’re on upwards $10m a year that’s just peeing in the sea, isn’t it?

So, I have put together a few Ideas on what might improve the Pro Bowl and one or two of their many, many down sides.

The Skills Contest

I can see where a lot of people look at this idea, it’s something they do around the NBA’s all-star weekend and they do so with reasonable success. Building more events around the pro-bowl might add some more zest to it, and increase interest but I’m not too sure which individual skills can be brought to the table in an NFL skills contest. I don’t think Offensive linemen in the 40-yard blocking dummy dash, or pass rushers in the 20-yard tackle dummy slalom would actually be that interesting.

I can see why a lot of people like this idea but if you think about it the individual skills of the players are so specific in the NFL a lot of them don’t translate to good viewing. If you like watching the combine then you might find it interesting to watch, if like me and most people who find it pure tedium then this is likely an idea best left on the shelf.

Selection Panel

Either get rid of, or combine in a strictly come dancing style, the public votes with that of a judging panel. This corrects for some of the anomalies of good players missing out whilst adding a layer of discussion and ensuring the public get to see the players they want. It might add some discussion and a bit of controversy around the event, the only bad press is no press (just ask Donald Trump), so by having an AFC and NFC judging panel and making their decisions transparent when the public vote closes offers the opportunity to create discussion points and points of conflict even if they’re only minor.

Or you could…

Combine it with the HOF Game

After the complete and utter farce that was the 2016 HOF game another preseason is something nobody wants and the Pro Bowl is something nobody wants. Maybe actually combining them might create something that somebody wants. I’m not suggesting that an annual visit to Canton might be the most inspiring for any of the players, but having Legends of both past and present walking around for a week can’t be a bad thing.

This is my favourite idea of them all, I kind of like the idea of current and past legends of the game milling about Hawaii chatting to each other, chatting to the press. I can see the NFL’s social media feeds blowing up everywhere as Ray Lewis shakes hands with Timmy Jernigan, or Peyton Manning is nattering away to Trevor Siemian on the sidelines during the game. The potential for some enduring images exists. There’s political beef here however, playing the game away from Canton may a bit of a pain to arrange, the NFL has a significant amount of history floating around Canton so leaving it may create a bit of a problem among the NFL’s hierarchy and bearded football hipsters in Houston Oilers t-shirts. Plus it might add a bit more fanfare to what has historically been a rubbish game filled with 3rd stringers and roster bubble players.

Anyway, let us know what you think of these ideas or any of your own and, when we inevitably revisit this topic, we can then add your ideas to this compendium for when Rodger Goodell inevitably reads this.