Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Pro Bowl Needs Fresh Ideas To Recapture Public Interest

One of my biggest disappointments as a sports fan came during the 2010 NFL Pro Bowl played in Miami. At first, I was ecstatic to see the best NFL players compete from free seats a mere nine rows up from the field. Two years later, the only memorable events are my younger brother’s falling asleep during the third quarter and our leaving the stadium in the fourth quarter tired and utterly unimpressed.

When I entered the stadium, I was excited to watch the NFL elite take the field, but this expectation quickly turned into boredom and eventually disappointment. The latest two editions have been no different, and it’s about time the NFL took action to combat the trend of pathetic Pro Bowls.

While every major professional sporting league in the United States has its own version of an “all-star game,” the NFL’s version seems to be in the worst shape. In 2002, the MLB’s version was universally mocked when it ended in a 7-7 tie after both teams ran out of pitchers in extra innings. But even that game was more exciting than the Pro Bowl today.

In short, the Pro Bowl no longer matters and is no longer fun to watch. Of the players who choose to show up to play, the general priority seems to be avoiding breaking a sweat in the Hawaiian sun rather than playing football. After this year’s game, the normally soft-spoken Aaron Rodgers called out his NFC teammates for their lack of effort. When a quiet leader claims that some of his teammates “embarrassed themselves,” it’s time for a change.

An easy solution would be to scrap the game altogether, as this year’s 59-41 affair hardly resembled football and was largely ignored with the Super Bowl looming on the horizon. This year’s edition included Drew Brees’ attempting a drop kick, exemplifying the notion that the game isn’t so much football as it is relaxing in front of over 40,000 paying customers.

However, this wouldn’t be fair to the players who have performed well over the course of the 16-game season and deserve some kind of monetary award and a trip to Hawaii with teammates and friends. The NFL should draw on the more successful features of other league’s all-star games in order to make the Pro Bowl something other than a glorified snooze-fest.

The NFL should cut the game in half. By the second half of most Pro Bowls, the game has lost any sort of atmosphere created by fans excited at seeing all the best players on the same field, as the spectators are instead treated to the painful spectacle of Vince Young’s throwing the ball into the ground and missing 6-foot-1 Chad Ochocinco, as was the case in 2010. Three hours is too long for a fan to watch excruciatingly mediocre football, so the removal of the second half would be a welcome respite.

This change prompts questions about value. How will fans feel like they’re getting enough football for their hard-earned dollars if they only get to watch one half of a game?

As every other league has shown, all-star skills competitions can often be more exciting than the all-star game itself. Whether it’s the MLB’s home run derby, the NBA’s dunk contest or the NHL’s skills competition, the fans enjoy seeing players display their natural athleticism, even if those displays come in circumstances that would never crop up in an actual game. Under the new system for the Pro Bowl, the NFL’s best players would compete in drills in lieu of the second half in a manner similar to every other league’s contests.

For a third and final step, the NFL needs to make the Pro Bowl meaningful if fans are going to watch and players are going to try. Therefore, the NFL should take a page from MLB’s playbook and reward the conference that wins the Pro Bowl by allowing that conference’s representative in the next Super Bowl — assuming that the Pro Bowl will be moved back to the week following the Super Bowl — to choose whether to kick or receive to start the game.

The last proposal would remove some of the fanfare from the coin toss at the Super Bowl, but given that a seat in the nosebleed section at the Super Bowl costs over $2,000, the coin toss issue seems trivial.

The NFL could very easily turn the Pro Bowl into something meaningful and exciting using these guidelines. For a league that televises every round of their draft, it shouldn’t be that hard to captivate fans for one game.

Corey Blaine is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. THE BLEACHER SEATS appears every Friday.

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