“The Pro Bowl is a joke” is the near unanimous opinion of the NFL’s All-Star Game. I hear it on ESPN, I hear it on campus, and I read it online. There are few fans who root hardcore one way or the other, there is no effort from the defense, and the players barely care who wins.
I think it’s the season’s most fun game to watch.
Yes, given the nominal effort you can barely call it a football game, however it gives you the opportunity to see things you never see in the regular season.
On the AFC’s first possession, Ben Roethlisberger goes for it on 4th & 4 from midfield. In a sport where violence dominates, it’s refreshing to watch these testosterone based mammoths of men take a step back and have fun. I embrace the 60 minute goof-off game. The players are relaxed and you get to see another side of them.
How often do you see gadget plays, onside kicks, and multiple laterals all in one game? …let alone all in the first quarter.
In sports, the more the players are emotionally invested, the more hype the game gets. It’s one of sports’ few laws. Some examples:
Yankees vs. Red Sox: Geographic and Division Rivals – Major Hype
NFC/AFC Championships: Super Bowl Bid at Stake – Major Hype
Mariners vs. Rays October 4th to determine AL wild card – Major Hype
Mariners vs. Rays October 4th to determine nothing – who cares
Since there’s minimal player emotional investment (a few thousand dollars more for winning), the Pro Bowl roles around and the prequel storyline is “who cares.”
But I look at it from the “what am I going to see next” angle. It makes 4th & longs interesting – there’s a realistic chance I’m going to see 49ers’ punter Andy Lee try to run for a first down on 4th & 17. Who doesn’t want to see Sebastian Janikowski fake a 60 yard filed goal and go vertical. He probably wouldn’t convert, but how cool would it be if he did?
The Pro Bowl is underrated because it elicits a different type of excitement. You won’t see big hits, you won’t see much effort, and you will see a lot of scoring, but Pro Bowl ratings would soar if ESPN heavily advertised “What Will You See This Year?”
The final score yesterday was 59-41 in favor of the AFC. How often do you see 100 points scored in an NFL game?
If you were flipping through channels and you saw the AFC winning 77-23 and driving up the field late in the fourth quarter, would you watch? I probably would.
It’s different, it’s relaxed, and it’s entertaining. Sign me up for next year.
If you completely disagree, let me know in the comments. I want to hear from the other side.