Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011
By Joe Collins
The Pro Bowl is starting to resemble a routine Thanksgiving at Aunt Hildas: nobody really wants to be there (its kind of an unwritten obligation to show up in the first place), the smarter ones phoned in their I cant go excuse weeks ago, the day kindasorta revolves around football, theres a good chance the participants are slightly hung over from the night before and everyone just hopes they can get through the day and leave without getting hurt.
Woo hoo! Pro footballs All-Star Game! Yes!
The Pro Bowl has been the Glass Joe of organized football for quite some time now. OKOKmaybe its more Von Kaiser-like. But still, the game lacks a punch. Its abused even more by the players who dont show up. And it takes even more hits with the country club rules that are enforced (nothing says football like no blitzing). Finally, the game is kicked to the curb with in-game entertainment like(wait for it) The Goo Goo Dolls. Apparently Third Eye Blind and Matchbox 20 were unable to attend.
Sunday night's 55-42 track meet won by the NFC did not resemble football at times. It was like when one of your parents picked up a video game controller for the first time and tried to challenge you in a game of Madden. Im sure you would have put 42 points on the board before halftimejust like the NFC did to the AFC. Players were diving at feet, avoiding direct contact with the opposition and oleing players into the end zone. All-star football? Hardly. It didnt help matters that Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Matt Cassel combined to throw five interceptions.
Look, the game is an exhibition. Sports exhibitions are just thatexhibitions of talent, a display. Maybe its supposed to look like flag football at times. I know that the league has already Purrelled itself many times over, sterilizing the celebrations, helmet-to-helmet hitsetc. Maybe the NFL doesnt want to change the status quo and start enforcing real football for players who dont want to get hurt in the first place. I get that. But I think that, with a few tweaks here and there, the Pro Bowl can be put back on the map as a somewhat legitimate football experience. How about
Winners Get Paid, Losers Get Some Lovely Parting Gifts: Money is a great motivator. The members of the winning team currently walk away with 45,000. The losers get 22,500. Why not just combine the two figures and just round it up to 70,000 for each player on the winning team? I mean, just think of the car that could buy. The winners get cash and bragging rights. The losers walk away with a box of Tide.
Trick Plays Man-In-Motion Encouraged: Currently, Pro Bowl offenses have to use tight ends and there can't be any shifting. Hmm. Well, the game is already a showcase of offense (nobodys playing any defense anyway, right?), so why not hit the gas and liven it up a little? Julius Peppers as a man-in-motion? Done. Terrell Suggs in the backfield? Surewhy not. As long as the game doesnt get too gimmicky on offense, lets do it. As for the defense
The No Blitzing Light Has Been Turned Off: The NFL rules are clearly set up to protect the quarterback anyway, so turn the defenders loose. You'd think there would already be a gentlemens agreement or an unwritten rule not to spear the opposing quarterback in an exhibition game. But putting a little pressure on the QB or at least, showing a pulse-- would be nice.
Bonuses for every tackle: If you had a chance to watch the Pro Bowl Sunday night, the Alex Mack touchdown that ended the game looked like a bumper car ride at a county fair, minus the puke bucket. The defense tried to bump instead of tackle-- Mack as he rumbled down the sidelines for a touchdown. If you start throwing 500 incentives for every clean tackle, youd start to see the tomfoolery clean up pretty quick. Coach Bud Kilmer of Varsity Blues would love it. And I know that might sound a little contradictory to the trick plays entry up above, but hey: I'm just looking for equal contributions from both sides of the ball.
The devils advocate in all of this would say leave it alone. The game lit up the ratings nationally, with numbers biting at the heels of what is normally seen in the World Series. The 7.7 rating (12 share) was the highest numbers for the game since 2000. And Im surprised the numbers werent higher, given how the game was up against tumbleweeds on the sports calendar Sunday night. But it wouldnt hurt to boost the product. The NHL had captains picking teams during their All-Star weekend like it was 5th grade gym class. Maybe thats a start. Or maybe they combine elements of the Lingerie Bowl and the Pro Bowl. Talk about ratings, right? Whatever the case, the Pro Bowl needs to avoid turning into Thanksgiving: an event that induces people to pass out on the couch. Its definitely a fixer-upper project, but with a little TLC, it could be another dream house for the NFL.
Either that, or just get rid of it.
Or something like that.