Is Pro Bowl Dying Off?

The AFC continued its domination of the NFC in the Pro Bowl with a 31-28 win Saturday. But how many people actually watched the game? The NFL is still thriving as the country's No. 1 sports attraction, but the Pro Bowl is an anti-climax to the season that has most casual fans disinterested and players like Drew Brees getting injured and jeopardizing their careers for a "meaningless" game.

The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl used to be viewed much in the same way that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was – a chance for fans to see the best players in the league in a game that received a lot of national attention. Unlike the NBA and NHL All-Star Games, in which no defense was ever played and scores would climb out of control, the Pro Bowl was always plugged as having meaning. When the winning team gets paid more than the losing team, there was something at stake … or so the league would have you believe.

That may have been true at one time, but, with the salaries players are being paid these days, the money offered at the Pro Bowl is actually a pay cut over what they typically make. While it remains one of the highest individual honors a player can receive, the Pro Bowl is one of the few NFL institutions that is dying off rather than expanding.

Of the players selected to the game, 17 of them bowed out due to either injury of lack or interest. That's not a good sign. Couple that with Drew Brees suffering a dislocated elbow early in the game and it is understandable why some players, teams and agents might be a little leery of exposing their top talent to potential injury even in what is a glorified exhibition game.

The other All-Star games are played at midseason of their schedules. Because of the 16-game NFL schedule in which every game is critical for playoff or draft positioning at some level, it's not practical to have the Pro Bowl at midseason. If that was the case, likely none of the selected starters would go. Bringing the family to Hawaii is nice, but isn't viewed as being a must anymore – even for players whose teams were eliminated before the playoffs began.

The Pro Bowl has a place in the fans' minds, but it isn't anything that people need to clamor for. The game was moved from Sunday to Saturday this year and few people even noticed. There likely aren't any changes coming, but the game has lost much of its luster and, with teams now able to have players around for more minicamps and offseason workout programs, many will view February and March as a chance to heal up before it all begins over again after the draft. It's unfortunate that the Pro Bowl can't truly be a matchup of the NFL's best, but it has to be viewed for what it is – the NFL's best players going through the motions and hoping nobody gets hurt. That's not how the NFL works on a normal basis and fans realize it.

* For the first time in nine years, the Vikings won't raise ticket prices for the 2007 season for two-thirds of the seats in the Metrodome. In fact, in honor of team history, the team is actually lowering the price of 4,000 upper deck seats. The season ticket packages are tiered from $1,160 for the 10-game home schedule and decrease downward with packages available at $1,130, $990, $960, $730, $710, $670, $490, $380 and a new package of $196.10 – a tribute to the Vikings first season in 1961, with the homage coming at a ticket price of $19.61 per game. The packages that include price increases range from 1.8 to 4.5 percent. One of the factors believed to be involved is that, while the Vikings have sold out every home game since Randy Moss arrived in 1998, there were questions whether the final two homes games vs. the Jets and Rams would sell out. It is hoped that, by leveling prices, fans who are currently season ticket holders will remain and those who are interested will commit to buying tickets because the price isn't going up.
* All three Vikings Pro Bowlers got in the act Saturday. Kevin Williams recorded three solo tackles, Pat Williams added two tackles and, while playing on special teams, a directional kick intended to avoid Devin Hester, was picked up by Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson and returned five yards.
* Chiefs guard Will Shields hinted at the Pro Bowl that he is leaning toward retirement. Shields played in his 12th Pro Bowl, tying the record held by former Viking Randall McDaniel.

Viking Update Top Stories