Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PRO BOWL: To Keep or Not to Keep?

Will the sun set on the Pro Bowl next year?  It will be up to Commissioner Goodell to decide....
(photo courtesy of Josh Chiaratti)


                                       

Johnny J

The Pro Bowl is the "All-Star" game of the NFL. It's there to showcase the best players of the league. But what happens when its not taken seriously? The NFL loses money, fans stop caring, and the Commissioner gets mad.  Roger Goodell noted earlier that "the league must address the quality of the game," and he even mentioned he would consider eliminating the exhibition event if improvements aren't made. "I really didn't think that was the kind of football we should be demonstrating for our fans," said the Commissioner who was referring to past efforts in the Pro Bowl.

The players responded this year, with greater determination not to disappoint the fans or the Commissioner. In an all-out effort, the NFC blew out the AFC, 62-35. It actually was worth watching this year. Players like Peyton Manning  headlined the rally of getting the players to play hard and calling the last 2 years of the Pro Bowl unacceptable.  "Peyton said some things and guys took it personal," said Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, who finished with 13 yards on 5 carries and a fumble.  J.J. Watt after getting his finger cut after a play, went to the sidelines, and during an interview, as the cameras got a good look of his bloodied finger, and lightheartedly barbed, "Hey, Commish!  We're playing hard."  Even Goodell announced yesterday that the players' play in the Pro Bowl improved greatly this year compared to years past.
Hawaii.  Very likely that NFL Pro Bowlers wake up to this
sight every morning.
(photo courtesy of Josh Chiaratti)

For example, first-year Pro Bowler and Minnesota Vikings' tight-end, Kyle Rudolph, who was named MVP after catching 5 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.  Rudolph not only made a statement with his game, but also pleaded with the Commish to "keep [the Pro Bowl] here and keep it here for a long time." Rudolph, was not initially voted into the Pro Bowl. He made it after Tony Gonzalez decided not to attend because of injury. In the end Rudolph definitely showed why he deserved to be there: he was Eli Manning's and Drew Brees' top receiver and walked out the stadium with the MVP.

As a fan, the Pro Bowl was just known as a trip to Hawaii and an extra paycheck. I understand that no one wants to get hurt in a game that doesn't mean anything. Some players are still probably still upset about not being in the Super Bowl and so the effort was just not there. Especially if you're a player who has been known as a Pro Bowler throughout your career, but for someone who is new to Hawaii, you're just soaking it all in.

But Going back to Gonzalez, not being there, I feel like if you were healthy enough to play in your last game, then you're healthy enough to play in this game. If I paid for tickets to go to the Pro Bowl, I would like to see players that I voted for playing. The fans deserve that much.  I didn't pay for someone to be called upon because my favorite players were too busy--err, hurt--to come.  Players like: 

  • Aaron Rodgers 
  • Calvin Johnson
  • Matt Ryan
  • Clay Matthews


They all could have played because they all played in their last games. They may have tweaked something during the game, but they played. So if you play for your team, then you should play for the fans. This is something the Commissioner needs to address as well.

Hawaii.  You can't get these views in Miami.
(photo courtesy of Josh Chiaratti)
In 2010 the NFL moved the Pro Bowl in front of the Super Bowl, in an effort to get fans to watch. They threw more money toward the winning team and that didn't work: $60,000 to the winner and $45,000 to the loser before, now $50,000 to $25,000 split to the winner and loser, respectively. They even moved the Pro Bowl to Miami for one year and nobody cared.

Finally, the Commissioner said he would cancel the All Star event if players didn't play hard and that may have gotten the players' attention. Proving that being a Pro Bowler still means something; it means you're an elite member of this game, at least for the season your number is summoned upon by the fans and coaches. It also means you're responsible in providing your services for the overall good of the game and most especially for the fans.  Even if the game is just an exhibition event--just come out and exhibit your skills!

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