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Why The Pro Bowl Sucks (And How To Make It Better)

Max Meyer |
January 26, 2012 | 3:36 p.m. PST

Staff Writer

Empty seats are just one problem with the Pro Bowl.
Empty seats are just one problem with the Pro Bowl.
With the Super Bowl a week away, I'm sure most of you football fans are extremely excited for the upcoming NFL All-Star Game this weekend. Wait, you forgot the Pro Bowl was this Sunday? Completely understandable, since the Pro Bowl is not only the worst of the four major sports' All-Star games, it really is an embarrassment to the NFL.

Yet, despite the awful display of football in this wretched game, NBC Sports reports that the Pro Bowl got an 8.6 overnight rating, or in other words, around the same amount of viewers as some of the World Series games or College Football bowl games. Are we really that bored on Sundays that we have to watch the equivalent of a high school football game?

But how bad is the Pro Bowl? Let's take a look at last year's very forgettable and predictably unwatchable Pro Bowl. Center Alex Mack, a second alternate, scored a touchdown off a lateral when no one tried to tackle him. Offensive linemen and defensive linemen were casually chatting before each snap. Sideline reporter Jay Glazer actually called a play for the NFC squad.

What is this, a football social? And now the NFL is allowing the players to tweet on the sideline during the game! The Pro Bowl is an utter mess, and I have some solutions on how the NFL should fix its All-Star presentation:

1. Cancel the game and have an award ceremony instead. Most players don't want to make the trip to Hawaii for a pointless bowl. That is why so many first and second alternates see the field. Heck, Tim Tebow is one QB injury or no-show away from being invited to the Pro Bowl despite not even completing fifty-percent of his passes.

If the NFL canceled the Pro Bowl and had an award ceremony (kind of like the ESPY Awards), where they can announce the MVP, All-Pro Teams, Coach of the Year, and all of the other major award, who wouldn't watch that? The players and coaches would likely go as well, especially those who are nominated for an award, unlike in the Pro Bowl where the players don't want to go despite being voted as an All-Star representative.

Award ceremonies also generate monster TV ratings, and with the NFL currently dominating the sports television business, why not add another event that will give the NFL another way to attract more viewers?

2. Make the incentive of playing in the Pro Bowl and winning the Pro Bowl greater. Currently, the players on the winning Pro Bowl team get $45,000 each while the players on the losing team get $22,500. This is chump change for an NFL player. Throw in a new car along with the $45,000 for the winning team (instead of just the MVP of the game) or a new HDTV or 3DTV with the $22,500 for the losing team.

NFL Pro Bowl (Michi Moore)
NFL Pro Bowl (Michi Moore)
Another incentive can involve the Super Bowl, like how the MLB decides which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. While the NFL plays at a neutral site for the Super Bowl, maybe give the winning conference the chance for its Super Bowl representative in the following year (since their Super Bowl representative this year cannot play in the Pro Bowl) to be able to decide whether or not they want to receive or kick in the Super Bowl next year (and eliminate the coin toss).

Incentives like these, especially one that can possibly have a great effect on the outcome of the Super Bowl, will get the players to play harder and allow the fans to have a more enjoyable Pro Bowl experience.

3. Fine the players who skip out on the Pro Bowl. In the 2010 Pro Bowl, a whopping 28 Pro Bowlers out of the 76 Pro Bowlers voted in did not show up to the game (14 of them were on the Colts and Saints, the two teams in the Super Bowl that year). So fans got David Garrard and Vince Young at QB representing the AFC (two guys who currently aren't even starting QBs), rather than superstars who didn't come such as Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.

Unless a player is severely injured (like being put on IR in the regular season or suffering a grueling injury in the playoffs), the NFL should fine their players a significant amount for not showing up. Most players hate getting fined and having money taken out of their paychecks. Why would any players want to get fined for not wanting to go to Hawaii for a couple of days? With the Pro Bowl's new play-or-pay model, the NFL would get its superstars back into their rightful place, the NFL All-Star Game. 

4. Create skills competitions before the Pro Bowl. The NBA has the Slam Dunk Contest and the MLB has the Home Run Derby, events that are often more anticipated than the actual All-Star game itself. The NFL should have a series of competitions before the Pro Bowl (possibly the day before) to prove what players are the best at different skills. Who wouldn't want to see who can win a race with the contestants being Chris Johnson, Jacoby Ford, Mike Wallace and Ted Ginn Jr.? Or who can throw the football the farthest between Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers?

Players would undoubtedly cherish their titles as the fastest player in the NFL or strongest arm in the NFL. Other ideas for pre-Pro Bowl competitions: Highest jumper, strongest man (involving bench pressing), farthest field goals and punts, and my favorite contest idea, best touchdown celebration (without flags or fines, of course). Also, give the winners a great prize (more cash perhaps) just as another incentive to make these contests as entertaining and intriguing as possible. 

Which solution do you like best? Feel free to let me know in the comments at the bottom of the story.

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Reach Max by email, or follow him on Twitter.

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