It’s Pro Bowl week again! Yes, the one week a year where all football fans really just want to watch the Super Bowl, but instead they get a meaningless game between players whose teams were not good enough to get to the big game. This raises the question: Is the Pro Bowl worth watching? Matt Severino and Jorge Eckardt debate.
The Pro Bowl is absolutely worth watching, and not just that, but the entire week of festivities leading up to the game is worth our attention. It gives fans of teams who didn’t make the Super Bowl get to enjoy the excellence of their star players one last time before there’s no football for half a year. It showcases the best of the best as they go toe-to-toe in not only a whole football game but also skill challenges, obstacle courses and dodgeball. We get to watch quarterbacks go head-to-head with wide receivers and linebackers like they did last year in the precision passing challenge, where we learned that Adam Thielen is a more accurate passer than Andrew Luck and that Von Miller can’t throw a football to save his life. We learned in the hands challenge that Thielen not only can throw but has sticky hands and that Mitch Trubisky is, well, not great. In dodgeball, we saw just how shifty Saquon Barkley really is, but the 5-on-1 was just too much to overcome. And, above all, we learned that Jamal Adams is just the best at tackling mascots. The Pro Bowl and everything surrounding it is just plain fun. It’s a great experience for the fans that are down there and fun to watch on TV if you can’t make it. If you want to laugh and enjoy some lighthearted fun by world-class athletes, then the Pro Bowl is right up your alley.
It's Pro Bowl week so here is your first annual reminder Mitch Trubisky couldn't complete a pass over a glass panel pic.twitter.com/W1GDENH4bw
— Moo (@PFF_Moo) January 21, 2020
The NFL isn’t the only professional sports league to struggle to make their all-star game relevant and worthy of fan interest. The truth is, however, the Pro Bowl is by far the worst of the group and needs major changes to be implemented. The worst part about the event is the timing and there is no good way to fix this issue. By late January, players have been in season for six months and many decide to not participate because of it. All of the other leagues have their respective game held in the middle of the season, making it a great opportunity for players to rest up and let loose for a few days. The week before the Super Bowl is not the time to do this. Many players are nursing injuries and opt to sit out, damaging the events marketability and overall appeal. Another issue with the Pro Bowl is that there is nothing new and exciting to follow on a yearly basis. The same venues are recycled again and again and the format has never been revisited. The AFC vs NFC matchup is only appealing so many times and truthfully, nobody wants to visit Orlando every winter. And we have yet to address the game itself. Football is loved because of its physical nature. While nobody wants to get hurt, eliminating this element of the sport has ruined the game. You are practically watching grown men play schoolyard football. The attempts to add other competitions such as dodgeball have been refreshing but not enough to make the Pro Bowl worth watching, let alone attending.
Yes, the game itself is rather easy-going, but while that is normally looked at as a negative I think it actually adds to the atmosphere of the event. These players have just played at minimum a 16-game season, and for those who made the playoffs even longer. No one needs them to be flying around the field trying to hurt each other, because that doesn’t benefit anyone. All that the fans really need is some fun, friendly competition like the backyard football that you mentioned. I’m excited about watching Tre’Davious White and Stefon Gilmore go up against Michael Thomas and Davante Adams, and it’ll be fun to see Lamar Jackson show off and try to pick apart the NFC Defense. And, it gives lesser-known but great players a chance to show how good they are on a national stage. Last year, we got to see Kansas City Chiefs and former UConn fullback tear up the game, catching three passes for 92 yards, just three short of the game-lead. It also gives players an opportunity to play different positions and even on different sides of the ball, with Jalen Ramsey having a reception and Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, Keenan Allen and JuJu Smith-Schuster all getting snaps on defense. That’s something you won’t see in an actual game, which is the perfect reason why this game is so fun to watch. It’s different. It’s light-hearted. It’s fun. It’s everything that an All-Star game should be, you really don’t need anything more.
— Roto Street Journal (@RotoStJournal) January 27, 2019
The intent of the Pro Bowl is to have the best players in the league doing what they all do best on the field in a single game. Because of the system currently in place, it would be in the best interest of the league to start looking at other possible options to make the event more intriguing. I think what the NBA did a few years back with picking captains was one of the best decisions a professional sports league made regarding their all-star game in a long time. You could televise the draft and have the top vote-getters picking their friends and players they would most like to be on their team. Another direction the league could go would be to do multiple teams. It is clear that the conference matchup clearly isn’t working. I think some kind of bracket of four smaller teams would be a great way to freshen up the Pro Bowl game. Other small improvements could also greatly benefit the event. Offering a cash prize or donation to the players on the winning team to a charity of their choice would give players an incentive to compete at a somewhat high level, at least something close to what is on display every week across the league. Moving the location of the game could also help. Every year the MLB and NBA move the game to a new city or region, drawing fans who hadn’t gotten the chance to attend the previous year. With this, there would be a chance for new uniforms and helmets to be introduced, something that the NFL has refused to capitalize on in years past. It wouldn’t take a complete rework, but for the Pro Bowl to become something that the average sports fan is interested in following, something has to be done.