For five Minnesota Vikings, Sunday will provide a chance for them to be recognized for their achievements in the NFL during the 2015 season. The only problem with that was that only one of them – running back Adrian Peterson – was actually selected to the Pro Bowl team.
The latest twist in the effort to save the Pro Bowl from extinction is to have Hall of Famers pick the rosters – schoolyard style. This year the two coaches/general managers are Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin
Peterson was the first running back taken, being selected by Team Rice in the seventh round. Peterson would later be joined by defensive end Everson Griffen. The other three Vikings Pro Bowlers – QB Teddy Bridgewater, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith – ended up on Team Irvin.
For avid football fans, the Pro Bowl is merely moderately interesting, something that even hard-cores don’t find to be destination television viewing. The problems with the Pro Bowl are numerous and the attempts to save it from flat-lining have seemingly been like applying an open-heart massage to a dead man.
The most obvious problem the Pro Bowl faces is that it is anti-climactic. It can be argued the only all-star game of merit is the Major League Baseball Game. Because Commissioner Bud Selig, who seemingly couldn’t take three steps without tripping and embarrassing the game, allowed an All-Star Game in his home stadium – Miller Field in Milwaukee – to end in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings because both teams had burned through their pitchers, despite the fact that there’s no tying in baseball.
In a desperate move to keep his all-star game relevant, Selig ordained that the MLB All-Star Game winner would earn that league home-field advantage in the World Series, win-loss records be damned. Leave it to baseball to find a way to makes records irrelevant by giving home-field advantage in its championship series to a team that got lucky when a third-place team’s catcher got a hit in the bottom of the eight to win an exhibition game.
Unlike the NFL, the other three major sports play their all-star games at midseason, which gives them more allure. However, baseball is the only sport in which its self-proclaimed “Midsummer Classic” resembles games played throughout the season. The other two major sports are far less familiar when players are wearing all-star jerseys.
The NBA All-Star Game never includes chants of “D-Fence!” because there is very little defense played. It has more the feel of a concert than a basketball game and it is enjoyed only by gamers who think more points translates into more fun. The NFL All-Star Game has become a complete joke. Starting this year, teams are going to play three-on-three for the entire game. Last time we checked, in normal games, teams have five players and a goalie. The NHL will likely scrap the plan after this season because of its incongruity with the game, but, for now, the NHL is going three-on-three – rendering the “S” in scrap silent for hockey purists.
Because of the violence of the NFL and the importance of each game during the regular season, it’s impractical and effectively impossible for the game to shut down for a week to allow the best of the best in the first half of the season to play a game. The timing of the game has always been an issue and one of the numerous changes made by the NFL has been to address that.
The Pro Bowl used to be played a week after the Super Bowl, the ultimate sports anticlimax. It has never been a game that casual football fans cared about or expressed any interest in viewing. It was always played at mid-afternoon with little in the way of fanfare or buildup.
Attempting to keep the Pro Bowl viable, the NFL decided to move it forward, playing the game in between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. It didn’t help. Fans didn’t flock to have Pro Bowl parties or gather at bars (the usuals were still there, but not many outsiders) to watch the game. Feeling the lack of value to a sport that prides itself on being must-see TV, the NFL considered scrapping the Pro Bowl.
In an effort to preserve the game, the decision was made to move it up two weeks and give it more visibility. More eyes on the product didn’t help.Once again facing potential extinction, the NFL decided to move the game from Hawaii, where it had been for decades, to put it in the host city of the Super Bowl for an unofficial kickoff of the event. For 20 years (1951-70) it was played in the L.A. Coliseum. From then on, it was played in Hawaii … until 2009.
Vikings fans remember that year. That season, no team had more Pro Bowlers than the Vikings and, when almost all of them begged off, not to mention the players from the Saints and Colts, it became even more of a joke and reason enough for fans to tune out.
It went back to Hawaii the following year, but two years ago they went to the well again by moving the game to Arizona – the site of the Super Bowl – with similar results. It’s back in Honolulu this year, confirming that the NFL is grasping at straws to make the game interesting to casual fans.
The biggest problem with the Pro Bowl is that it would appear the player’s union isn’t down with it. Former Viking Jared Allen was part of a Texas high school move by doing a human lateral checker-jump of defensive linemen for their own amusement. At that point, Roger Goodell got involved and said he was considering putting the gas pipe into the vehicle and allowing the Pro Bowl to asphyxiate.
In hopes of making the Pro Bowl more viable, the NFL opted to abandon the conference designations and let Hall of Famers pick the squads like a fantasy draft. Rice, Irvin, Deion Sanders and Cris Carter have been co-opted to be involved in the Pro Bowl selection, basically evaluating all the players selected and prioritizing. For those who have ever been on the wrong end a schoolyard pick, a certain animosity is engendered.
Is there any empirical evidence to back up that the recent reboot to keep the Pro Bowl on life support is in trouble?
When the teams were chosen Wednesday night, the clock stopped on players invited to the party. When the team was announced in December, there were 86 players named to the Pro Bowl. Of those, 14 were on the teams in the Super Bowl. You’re at 100 now.
The total number of players that were selected to the Pro Bowl and felt an obligation to play is now at 133. That means that 33 players that weren’t involved in the announcement show are going to playing.
It includes the tandem of Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey, former Miami teammates who made headlines for their thuggish behavior to a teammate. Ah, the storylines.
For the five Vikings players that will on the field Sunday, it will be reason enough to watch the Pro Bowl if you’re a Vikings fan. But, if too many fans watch, the Pro Bowl will continue.
It’s up to you, football fans. If you keep watching, it will come again.