Jan 25, 2014; Honolulu, HI, USA; NFL cheerleaders of the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys and the St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills perform on the All-Star Sports Show stage at the 2014 Pro Bowl All-Star Block Party Waikiki on Kalakaua Ave. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Rarely has there been so much riding on an NFL game that so few people will go out of their way to watch. The death row movie “The Green Mile” was in fact the first thing that came to mind as I was searching for a good title for this article. It’s no secret that the TV and Cable ratings this year will make or break the future of the Pro Bowl.
It also ocurred to me that the NFL version of traditional All Star Games has been on life support for a number of years. Fan support for the Pro Bowl has been weak for decades, and even the players have issues with it. Ironically all the players want to be voted in, but many don’t want to play. The news this week has been full of stories about players who declined the “honor”. At least none of the New Orleans Saints declined.
We don’t have to quote a lot of stats; it’s enough to know that the first NFL All Star Game dates back to 1938, and that makes the tradition 75 years old. The odds are that unless there’s momentum created this year, and the NFL can sustain it over a prolonged period of time the Pro Bowl won’t live long enough to be an 80 year tradition.
Here’s something I doubt most fans realize. The NFL set the NFL Players Association to take the fall if ratings don’t improve this year. The Pro Bowl has survived mostly unchanged for 75 years, but drastic changes are in place for the Sunday game. I’ll admit when I first read the news about the changes this summer I blamed it all on the NFL.
Here’s the catch: That may still be true, and yet not true at the same time. I did my detective work, and pinned own the source of the changes. For better or worse, the results will be pinned on the NFLPA. A single press release by them admits their head head used his ideas and “certain un-named player” ideas and presented them to the NFL in a negotiation to save the Pro Bowl.
However, the NFLPA never once mentioned the term “NFL” in the news release. Then remember it was a negotiation. The NFLPA was somehow forced to take the fall if this year ends in disaster. They had also forced into pleading with the NFL to save it for one more year. Don’t think for a moment that the NFL wasn’t pulling the strings on the negotiations.
The result? There’s no competition between the NFC and the AFC to bring conference pride into the equation. The Pro Bowl has turned into not only Fantasy Football, but the “Rice and Sanders Game” as well.
Here’s a good quote from my Saints analyst Phil Pullin when we were debating the motivation behind scrapping the AFC/NFC competition, in a Pro Bowl post I did earlier this week:
"“Look at it this way”, Phil said. “For the first time since 1938 the NFL is finally being honest about what you can expect from the Pro Bowl. The NFL finally dropped all the pretense of the Pro Bowl being a real competition.”"
I’ll have to admit that really made sense. The radical Time Clock changes were another issue altogether; I’m still trying to figure that one out. The smart money says Goodell is trying them out to see if he want to move them into the regular season, which would create yet another radical change in football as we know it. This quote pretty well sums up my feelings:
"“Is the NFL using the 2014 Pro Bowl as a Guinea Pig to test time clock rule changes for the 2014 regular season and beyond? Most likely, as I can’t see Roger Goodell endangering his prized pet gerbil for the job. He would never allow it in the stadium with all those sweaty, muscular, violent men.”"
We’ll see you at the Pro Bowl!