The Pro Bowl ain’t what it used to be: a postseason showcase of the best players in the NFL with conference pride on the line.
Now it seems anyone with a blister or a hangnail or sour mood after a season-ending loss is skipping the event.
The game itself offers minimal defense and — understandably — very little of the bone-rattling hits that are prevalent during the regular season. Last year’s installment looked more like an NBA all-star game than a football game, with the AFC winning 59-41 in a shootout. That didn’t sit well with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the league is considering eliminating the Pro Bowl if the quality of competition does not improve drastically. In a Monday radio interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “Town Hall,” Goodell agreed with host Michael Strahan’s assessment that the 2012 game was “embarrassing.”
“If we cannot accomplish that kind of standard (of high play), I am inclined to not play it,” Goodell said (via the Associated Press). “It is really tough to force competition, and after a long season, to ask those guys to go out and play at the same level they played is really tough.”
If the NFL dropped the game, Pro Bowl teams would still be selected, but they would not compete on the field. Players have lobbied to keep the game, although it’s worth noting that selection comes with perks: a financial bonus and a trip to Hawaii.
Frankly, it’s hard to blame some players for wanting to avoid (further) injuries after the grueling NFL season. Like in other professional all-star games, players already dealing with injuries are wise to sit out of an exhibition to speed their recovery, and unlike the NBA, MLB and NHL, the timing of the Pro Bowl means the players already have a full season of wear on their bodies and minds.
This year’s contest will be played on Jan. 27, the week before the Super Bowl. That means you won’t see anyone from AFC and NFC champions on the field. But hey, it’s the NFL. People will watch regardless.
By the way, Pro Bowl voting has begun — right here.