Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pro Bowl..YARN..

Starting in 2010, the National Football League will hold its Pro Bowl a week prior to the Super Bowl in the Super Bowl host city of Miami. The thought is to strengthen the Pro Bowl, attract more attention, and make it more relevant.

While that's a good first step for the NFL, I have an even better idea for 'fixing' the Pro Bowl: shoot it and bury it ten feet deep in the woods and never talk about it ever again. If anybody comes around to build condominiums in a few years (right!) on the site that its buried, send Tony Soprano and a shovel to move it to another place.

For what is widely considered the king of all sports in the United States, the NFL has always had the weakest 'All Star game'. Football has never been a sport conducive to a 'friendly' competition the way baseball and basketball can somewhat be. A great pitcher can face a great hitter and both can give maximum effort in an All Star game. A great dribbler can go one on one against a great defender in a basketball all star game and we can at least see one aspect of true competition in an otherwise meaningless game. In football, however, the game is so highly predicated on game plans and brute physical force that an All Star game simply doesn't work.

Once upon a time, the Pro Bowl had a place, albeit a minor one, on the sports landscape. When the event was conceived, the explosion of ESPN, the Internet, satellite TV and even VCR's could hardly be envisioned. Fans had rare chances to see the best in the league: they'd either catch them on the local over the air broadcast or maybe a snippet on the evening sports report. So the chance to see the best players all together on one field, even in an exhibition, was something of a novelty.

Now, it's just stupid.

There is simply not a lack of opportunity anymore to watch any team, and any player, that you would like to. It is now possible to watch, and re-watch, every play of every game online, over the TV or even on your handheld wireless device, while they participate in TRUE competition.
As annoying irrelevant as even pre-season games can be, the Pro Bowl is much worse. At least in pre-season games, the hardcore football fan can watch some semblance of his team for about five minutes, and then even watch some of the guys scrapping to try and make the team against guys on the other team trying to do the same. With the Pro Bowl, most of the big names bow out anyway, and those that do show up are basically playing a version of football closer to the Sunday afternoon flag football league down on the town green than what we've come to
 love and expect out of the NFL.

The NFL is all about tactics and strategies; conditioning and strength; teamwork and leadership. NONE of those qualities, except maybe arm strength, matter in the Pro Bowl. NONE. Worse yet, the Pro Bowl comes precisely a week AFTER the crown jewel of not just the NFL, and not just of sports, but of what some would say all of American pop culture: The Super Bowl. All the attention and time that is focused and spent on that game is justified. To spend anymore a week later on the lamest 'major' event in pro sports would be asinine.

So next year, the game will come the week BEFORE it. Yawn. Fine, it's a dead week anyway. But by definition, none of the Super Bowl participants will be in the Pro Bowl game. So the two best teams, or at least the two teams with a chance to win the Vince Lombardi trophy, will have nobody in what is supposed to be a showcase of the best players in the league? What in the world is the point of this? Why?

Who is watching this thing anyway? I'm sure there are some degenerate gamblers, home bound seniors, and people whose two year old baby broke the remote. But why is the NFL doing this to its brand? WHAT is the point?

I know what some of you are thinking. "Well, then, just don't watch it, what do you care?" Fair enough. Nobody forces me to watch it and I don't. I can't even tell you who the starting quarterbacks are on either team. But for an entity as image conscious, as careful with its brand and as intelligently marketed as the NFL is, this is the hokiest and most insulting thing it can do. Any notion that anybody should spend three hours watching this nonsense is just plain dumb.