For many years it was considered a privilege, an honor and a reward to look forward to at the end of each NFL season. Now the Pro Bowl has turned into a yearly fiasco, that barely even resembles a football game. And the NFL has indicated previously, they are willing to do away with it for several reasons.
Wednesday on ESPN’s sports reporting show “Outside the Lines” former Jets DL Damien Woody detailed how when he “played” in the “game,” there was one main concern:
The most important thing about the Pro Bowl? "Getting out of the game unscathed." Even if it meant telling the other team the next play. pic.twitter.com/RSyEfPEldd
— Outside The Lines (@OTLonESPN) January 25, 2017
In this year’s game there has been upwards of 40 players who had been either selected to start or chosen as alternates that will be sitting out this game due to injury…allegedly. This means the NFL will need to shuffle through about 120 players in order to fill the rosters for both teams.
The league has tried a bunch of different things to keep the game relevant. A few years ago they moved the game from being played after the Super Bowl to the week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. That hasn’t done anything to move the needle as far as player interest. This year the game is being played in Orlando, which clearly didn’t do anything in regards to player interest either. They have even tried changing the selection format and again, the players don’t seem to care.
The one thing that is saving the game, despite it’s lack of interest from the player is the high TV ratings. What’s clear is that the NFL is such a strong product, that you can slap the shield on any event and it will gain a significant amount of interest. Having some semblance of NFL football on a Sunday, when there is no other football certainly helps their cause as far as TV is concerned.
We have conflicting interests at play here. From a business standpoint, the Pro Bowl is basically free money for the NFL. From an integrity stand point however, it’s a bankrupt operation. The decision is a tough one for commissioner Roger Goodell. One we are sure he isn’t taking too lightly. What we do know is that the players have zero interest in this game, or at least it’s low. Their main motivation is a vacation for them and their families and potential bonus money tied to the game in their contracts.
We also know that the NFL was threatening to end the game in the last CBA negotiations of 2011 and you better believe, it will be part of any new agreement’s talks, too.
No matter how much lipstick is put on the pig, not sure there are any answers for the NFL to increase player interest. Is the game doomed? Perhaps, but those TV ratings make it really hard for the league to give up. It’s like an addictive narcotic.