In a sport filled with gruesome injuries from big hits, season-ending non-contact injuries and fans wanting safer games, but less regulations, how can the NFL continue to hold the Pro Bowl?
Since leaving Hawaii a few years ago, the Pro Bowl has expanded its activities from just the game to an entire week/weekend of games and activities for players, coaches and families to participate in. I think this trend is smart for the league, but I don’t think it solves the problem I have.
The Pro Bowl, an AFC vs NFC battle for bragging rights, mostly, happens the weekend between the AFC/NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl. No Super Bowl teams participate because they are preparing for the biggest game of their season.
In the past, the Pro Bowl has been just a time to relax, have fun and play the game all the athletes love. With 44-man rosters, and a handful of the best players at each position attending, the game is generally close and got a decent amount of viewers on TV.
Now, the game is played in the middle of the day (2pm kickoff on Sunday), and though it saw a 28% increase from last year, it still fails to exceed its rating, according to Sports Media Watch, for the sixth straight year.
Viewership isn’t everything.
In addition to the consistently poor rating, two other things stick out as unimpressive about the game. Officiating and separation of athletes.
I understand that this is a special game and no one wants athletes getting hurt in a “just-for-fun” type game, but it’s ridiculous.
The refs were blowing plays dead once they see a stoppage of progress. The problem with that is sometimes the progress isn’t stopped.
My other issue with the Pro Bowl is how little the NFL does to make it a special game. Except for the 2014-2016 seasons, the game has been AFC vs NFC. Blue vs Red jerseys, no specialty helmets or jerseys or anything that makes the game better for fans and viewers.
There are endless possibilities for the league to be creative with this game, and they’re not.
To me, the Pro Bowl is on its way out. Unlike the NBA, MLB and NHL All-Star games that are in the middle of the season, the Pro Bowl is at the end of its season. People are getting bored with watching football and viewership shows it.
For the second consecutive year, the Pro Bowl week has included a handful of “Skills Challenges.” This year, highlight challenges included 10-on-10 Dodgeball, Kick-Tac-Toe (tic-tac-toe for placekickers), Gridiron Gauntlet (relay race), Best Hands (receiving), Precision Passing (best accuracy) and Drone Drop (catching a ball dropped from designated heights with a drone).
This season, the AFC came back from down 20-3 at halftime to beat the NFC 24-23 to win its second consecutive Pro Bowl. Von Miller (Broncos) won Defensive MVP and Delanie Walker (Titans) won Offensive MVP.