After the excitement of last weekends Conference Championship Games, things slow down this week as the Pro Bowl takes place in Hawaii. I love American Football and believe that the NFL and the sport in general get a hell of a lot of things right but the Pro Bowl is the one exception.
I love the draft system. Giving the weaker teams first pick is excellent as it makes a level playing field. The salary cap is also excellent for the same reason. I love that the players are drafted from colleges as it means the kids who dream of making the NFL but don't make it at least have an education to fall back on. I would love to see a way that soccer in Europe could adopt this principle as there are so many kids who don't make it but have finished their education at 16 years old to go into football academies on a full time basis and therefore have little or no qualifications. The one thing I don't love, is the Pro Bowl.
In recent seasons the Pro Bowl has been moved to the week before the Superbowl. That for me was the final straw. Previously you had a game that the players and fans didn't really care between the league's top stars. Now you have a game that the players and fans don't really care about and you don't even have the very best players playing as they are preparing for the Superbowl. Honestly, what's the point? I understand that the players who are voted onto the Pro Bowl can use the fact that they are Pro Bowlers in leverage for better contracts but the players themselves would probably prefer it if it was just an award that was handed out at the end of the year rather than having to play a meaningless game when their season's over. For the players who have been involved in the playoffs it's not so bad but if your team hasn't made the postseason there will be players who won't have played in four weeks who will then be asked to play in the Pro Bowl. It's doing nothing other than eating into time that the players could be spending with their families or on holidays.
In other sports the equivalents are often played during the regular season. I've had a think about this and it wouldn't work in the NFL. There's just not enough games. If the Pro Bowl was mid season the voting would have to start in week 2 or 3 to get all the votes in, counted and announced prior to the game being played. That would be far too early and players who aren't necessarily fan favourites but have a good season, wouldn't get the recognition they deserve.
In my opinion, players deserve recognition for being among the best in their position in the league but think the players would prefer it to be some sort of compromise between the All-Pro teams and the Pro Bowl teams. I would start voting the day after the Superbowl and have three separate votes. One for journalists, one for players and one for fans. Each vote would be calculated as a percentage and added together. The top players in each position would be named as All-Stars, All-Pros or whatever you want to call them. You could go down the basketball route and have a first team, second team, third team or however many you want. This way the top players are still getting recognised but we don't have to sit through a meaningless game were players play at a maximum of 50%.
The players aren't interested, I don't know anyone who is really excited by the prospect of watching it and in Hawaii the game was close to being blacked out due to poor ticket sales. If the people of Hawaii were interested in the one chance they get a year to see NFL players in action, they would have sold out weeks ago. It seems to me that the only person who cares is Roger Goodell as it's simply another chance for him to get some more dollars into the bank before the season ends. For a man that talks so much about player safety, I can't understand why he is making the players play in a meaningless end of season game were the only thing the players care about is that they don't get injured. Would Roger Goodell stand in a field and let 300lb men hit him for no reason? No, I don't think he would either.
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