The two-week break between the NFL conference championship games and the Super Bowl has provided the public with numerous storylines revolving around the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, this year’s participants in the big game. The NFL was still in action during the grace period, but you might have missed it if you weren’t paying close attention.
In the 2013 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii, the NFC defeated the AFC 62-35 in a game that had about as much drama as watching paint dry.
The Pro Bowl has been chided over the past several years for the players’ subpar efforts and the general unimportance of the game itself. This has become particularly evident in the last six years, in which the average score has been 48-34 and the game has looked less and less like actual football.
The specter of injury is always hovering over the game, which is the main reason there is little to no legitimate effort put forth by anyone on the field. It resembles little more than a backyard football spectacle where the plays are made up and the points don’t matter.
So what should the NFL do with the Pro Bowl?
Even the players recognize it’s a waste of time – 29 players starred in this year’s edition as replacements for guys who decided not to play due to injury or other reasons. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix.
Major League Baseball can get away with the format of its All-Star game, in which the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series, because the threat of injury is far less. The NBA can have a playground-like atmosphere at its All-Star game because that’s basically what the fans want to see from their favorite basketball players.
But the NFL is stuck because it can’t make the Pro Bowl worth anything. It takes place right before the Super Bowl, meaning many players can’t participate because they have to prepare for the game. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can’t move the game to the middle of the season because the NFL is a week-to-week league and rest is necessary.
In short, there is almost nothing the NFL can do to make the Pro Bowl more important. What Goodell can do, though, is build off of the game’s reputation as a fun-filled playground matchup. The Pro Bowl will never hold any kind of significance, so why treat it like it should?
Add in a skills competition, which has been done in years past but has since been discontinued. Fans would love to see a competition between Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning to see who is the most accurate quarterback. And who wouldn’t want to see Chris Johnson and Robert Griffin III go head-to-head to see who’s the fastest player in the league? The NFL could even create a celebrity game or a “rising stars” game like in the NBA.
Despite the jokes and insults hurled at the game, chances are that the NFL will stay with its current format for the Pro Bowl. It generated a 7.7 overnight rating on NBC, which amazingly outdid the 7.6 rating garnered by Fox during the first game of this past season’s World Series.
Football is king in America and people who love the game will do anything to watch it, whether the game is considered important or not. The ratings have been in a steady three-year decline, but as long as people keep tuning in, the Pro Bowl will live on.