The annual tradition of NFL’s Pro Bowl is supposed to be the best of the AFC versus the best of the NFC. I say “supposed” because some players that are voted in are substituted for back-ups due to players that back out for different reasons. Another reason is that by the end of each Pro Bowl, fans are usually disappointed that players do not play at their level because they are afraid of getting hurt.
It is true that Pro Bowl ratings are higher than what you would see with MLB, NBA and the NHL; however, the ratings are slowly dropping. The disdain for the Pro Bowl has reached the point that Commissioner Roger Goodell has said publicly that he is strongly considering making Pro Bowl 2013 the last one. With that said, fans are wondering if the players will rally to make this year’s Pro Bowl exciting enough to want more for next year or drop the ball and put an end to NFL Pro Bowl games.
Like many others, I would never have anything good to say when someone asks me if I am going to watch the Pro Bowl. The players usually do not play at the level they can play and a pre-season game is more exciting to watch. Yet, being that it is a football game and knowing that after next week’s Super Bowl game there will not be any meaningful games play for almost seven months, it is hard as a fan to stay away from watching it. Besides, when you look at the ratings of the Pro Bowl game compared to other sports, I am obviously not the only person to feel the way that I do.
Last year, the rating the Pro Bowl received was a 7.9. When comparing that with other sports, it did much better than last year’s NBA All-Star Game which had a 5.4 rating and as for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals’ goes, their ratings looked like a 2 a.m. infomercial. The ratings even scored higher than anything the MLB could put together, even better than the World Series. So whether people want to admit it or not, people are taking the time to sit down and watch the game.
Despite this, Players and fans are worried about the Pro Bowl’s future as last year’s ratings dropped eight percent from 2011 – 2012. Also, players like Payton Manning and Arian Foster have implored other players to play harder in order to save the game. Foster has been honest publicly with fans in saying how football is a physical game and athletes are concerned with playing at 100 percent during an all-star exhibition game.
According to the Associated Press, Foster said, “This isn’t basketball – you can’t go play a pickup game of football. I think it’s an honor and a tradition, but for you to expect the best athletes in the NFL to come out and play a game 100 percent when you can’t game plan, you can’t blitz, you can’t do all these things, it’s not going to be competitive like everybody wants it to be.”
Still, fans and experts have given their opinions and suggestions on ways to fix the Pro Bowl so it can be continued to be seen. In an article that appeared in SB Nation, writer Ryan Van Bibber put the question to their team of NFL bloggers on ways to improve the Pro Bowl. Suggestions include financial incentives for players to play at the level that got them there but that would mean changing the rules and allowing players to do more defensively like being able to blitz.
Running with the theme of financial incentives, another possibility could be to change the payouts where the winners would receive much more than the losers. Winners could receive at least $15k more as a nice motivation to play harder.
Another suggestion is to require at least one player from every team to play so that every fan would be interested in watching the game. Finally, the last suggestion is a simple one: leave it as it is. The Pro Bowl is supposed to showcase the best players in the league and making some of the changes suggested would take away the integrity of the game.
What will also be interesting is if Goodell will take this into account if the level of the game is not high enough to meet his expectations. After all, it would not be totally fair for Goodell to base his decision on whether to continue with having the Pro Bowl if the game is hampered by rain. Whatever the outcome of the game is one thing is clear for football fans: this could be the last Pro Bowl game played, so enjoy it as much as you can.
Pro Bowl 2013 Highlights
Highlights from the January 27, 2013 Pro Bowl