Sunday, the stars of the NFL head to Hawaii for a showcase of the league’s best. This break in playoff action is the Pro Bowl. The game has become some strange appetizer we are supposed to enjoy before the Super Bowl. Trouble is, no one likes it. The NFL wants a cool and entertaining All Star game but it doesn’t work like it does in baseball or basketball. Football is full-contact. You can’t play it for funsies. You have to play for blood. Over the last few years, the Pro Bowl has undergone a bit of a facelift to help make the event more interesting but only few ideas have really stuck. Here is a little advice on how to fix the Pro Bowl.
The first issue is this is not the league’s best. The really good players are gearing up for Super Bowl 50 and the other remaining top Pros are getting ready for surgery or are too pissed off to play some meaningless pick-up game. This year’s meeting can now boast the most rejected Pro Bowl invitations ever. Stars like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, LeSean McCoy, JJ Watt, Antonio Brown and many others all said “no thanks.” The players that really take advantage of this spotlight are the younger stars. For them, it’s still fun. They get a trip to Hawaii, they get paid, and they get to show off. Maybe we name the All Pro list then let the under 25 year olds take center stage. This sounds fun but that isn’t the point. How can we make a game that guys like Watt and Brady want to play, even after they get booted from the playoffs?
Pay Them a Crazy Amount
What if each player got 10 million dollars for playing in the Pro Bowl? You think they’d say “no” then? I don’t think so. I understand that 86 players are named to the combined roster so this plan requires 860 million dollars for one game. But believe me, everyone would watch that game. And those guys would play full speed. This is the best idea so far. Dear Owners, start saving your pennies cause we got a big party we want to throw at the end of the season and we need you to pay for it (only 27 mill per owner/year).
Add a Real Incentive
In baseball, the MLB All Star game means something. The American League stars play the National League equivalents and the winning squad gets home field advantage in the World Series for their conference. Players are encouraged to go for it because they might be playing in the big game and hosting a series is a serious bonus. The NFL could learn this lesson, maybe not for home field but for another perk. Currently, we have a Pro Bowl player draft but what if we went back to AFC versus NFC? And what if the winning team gets to decide possession and kickoff? Get rid of the coin toss and let the winning team choose. Or maybe something about draft picks? This adds a level of importance the contest currently lacks.
Change the Rules
They already don’t let the defenses blitz the QB. It’s a neutered game. So let’s go all the way and ruin it. What if the Pro Bowl was just a skills contest? Like an All Pro combine. Who can throw the farthest, who runs fastest, who can bench press the most? Maybe we go full Double Dare and see which athlete can find an orange flag inside a giant nose.
So looks like the heart of the issue is that the game happens too late and then we don’t get to see our favs play. On top of that, the matchup is never as good as advertised. We need to shake this system up. Start the game earlier, tweak the scoring to make it more like MTV’s Rock ‘N Jock, or add some intense stakes like cutting off fingers or losers get awful tattoos. At the end of the day, I think it’s unfair to ask the NFL elites to try harder. That’s why football is awesome: there are limited number of games and every meeting matters.