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article imageOp-Ed: NFL: Pro-Bowl is Still Just Ho-Hum

By Michael Bearak     Jan 31, 2010 in Sports
The NFL has been watching its annual All-Star game fall in ratings and attendence for a number of years so after last years game they decided it was time to make a change.
The NFL is the only major sports league (I don't count soccer) that doesn't play it's all-star event in the middle of the season. Maybe it is because of the physical toll the season puts on the players, or maybe it is because of tradition, or possibly some combination of the two. Nevertheless fewer players have wanted to go to Hawaii for the annual Pro-Bowl, fewer people watch it on TV, and the number of people that actually attend the game as fallen off as well. The NFL realized it needed to make a change so in 2010 the change was made.
This year the game was played on the off-week-Sunday between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The game was also moved to the host city of the Super Bowl, in the case of this year, Miami.
Attendance was good, 70,000 plus, the largest since the 1956 Super Bowl in Los Angeles. Both of the starting quarterbacks for next Sunday's Super Bowl were in the stands watching along with some of their teammates.
In the past the annual trip to Hawaii was a good excuse to get the family away for a vacation, but lets be honest I know these guys are loaded but a trip from Dallas or Green Bay has to be cheaper to Miami than it is to Hawaii. So keeping it on the main land was a very, very smart idea for the NFL. Not to mention it does play in very nicely with the various festivities that surround the Super Bowl every year.
The trouble the NFL now has is that they are talking about expanding the season and almost half of the guys originally selected to go to the Pro-Bowl backed out. If the NFL makes the season longer then it would just mean more players backing out of the Pro-Bowl. Injuries, time commitments, just being tired of playing for the year all take their toll on these athletes.
It would be great to take a week and have the Pro-Bowl in the middle of the season like so many other sports. The NFL is definitely on to something good by having it in the host city for the Super Bowl. What they need to ensure is that the stars are there, the big name players actually suit up. Here there are tons of options, have a freshman vs. sophomore game or figure out a way to make sure that 40 percent of your guys that are selected don't back out. I don't know if giving the fans the vote is the smartest thing. Baseball and basketball have run into issues with that, just look at the NBA roster for their game!
Still, something needs to be done. Most of these guys don't play a whole lot in the game in the first place. Send enough guys that you only play one quarter and that is it. Limiting time on the field would in theory limit the risk of injury. You know that there isn't a single player on either Super Bowl roster that would play in the All-Star game.
This year could have been the end. If ticket sales were way down and home viewers were in small numbers than the NFL would have been faced with a tough choice. I don't think they are going to be faced with that choice. Still, the game needs to be refined.
The game is a powder-puff game, lots of offense, very little defense and almost zero hitting. That is okay most of these events are offensive showcases.
It would be a tragedy of the league lost their Pro-Bowl, but it needs to be kept interesting. The NBA designs a whole weekend around the game. There is a 3-point contest, a slam dunk events, a rookie game. All of those things keep the interest in the game and in the NBA.
I am not saying that the market-share is going to change over night. Fans are going to have to be brought back and with 2011 football in question the NFL needs to make everything they do interesting and special.
It is doable. This game is not a lost cause. The NFL is on to something the timing is right, it is possible the players or not enough of them is the solution.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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