With Denver sending six players players to represent the Mile High City, Broncos fans should be especially excited about this year's annual Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, Ryan Clady, Brian Dawkins, and Willis McGahee should provide plenty of action to captivate even the most casual orange and blue enthusiast.
Come on Jezru! Nobody actually watches the Pro Bowl!
Au contraire! Most people would probably be surprised to find out that last years Pro Bowl was the most watched AFC vs. NFC match-up since 2000. Believe it or not there is more interest in the Pro Bowl than at any other time in the NFL's recent history.
There's clearly a market for an NFL All Star Game. That said, why is it so incredibly painful to watch? Simply put, it's awful because the players are only there for the Hawaiian vacation, the game check and the camaraderie with other elites. They do not care about the game. Who can blame them? They just played anywhere from 20-23 brutally taxing games, most with only one week off (assuming they didn't have the "luxury" of being ruled out due to injury.)
So how do we fix the problem of the Pro Bowl? Stick with me after the jump.Believe it or not, there was a time when the Pro Bowl was a big deal. There was a time when players cared about winning and even in exacting a little payback on those who may have wronged them in the regular season. Unfortunately, as time wore on it became less and less about the game and more about everything other than the game.
I put forward three solutions to the Pro Bowl conundrum.
As of 2010 a Pro Bowl player makes at least $22,500 and that's if they're on the squad that loses. If they win they get a bank busting $45,000. Of course there are individual contract incentives that certainly help supplement this seemingly paltry amount of money to play in a game that easily rakes in millions of dollars. Considering the fact that the bonus for winning barely covers the fines some of the defensive players received during the season, it's no wonder players don't care about it.
I call my approach the Dr. Evil approach. I propose that to make the Pro Bowl interesting that the NFL pay it's players... $1 Million (One meeeeeellion dollars) to the winners and $22,500 to the losers. Okay, maybe a little more.
Even in today's world a million dollars is a lot of money, especially to some of the athletes who are toiling away on one or two-year contracts. Further, the disparity in the winnings (and the losings) should be motivation for... I don't know... The defensive field goal unit to um... maybe at least put their hands up or do something more than stand around during an attempt.
Anyway the point here is that the NFL needs to make it worthwhile for the players to play in the game. Give them the scratch to make it worth it....Make the incentive to win larger than life and the play on that field will surely follow suit.
A RETURN TO HOW IT STARTED
Way back when the Pro Bowl first started in the 1938 season (January of 1939), this contest wasn't what we're accustomed to today. There wasn't an East vs. West or AFC vs. NFC. The first Pro Bowls were match-ups between the NFL Champion and NFL All Stars. It would be unthinkable to pull off something like that today. I mean the Giants or Patriots would surely get smoked, right? Well back in 1939, 1940 January, and 1940 December (I know it's weird) the All Stars lost to the Giants, The Packers and the Bears. It wasn't until the very last of these kinds of match-ups in 1942 that the All Stars finally emerged victorious over the Washington Redskins.
Like I said, this kind of thing would be crazy to pull off today, but think about it... You'd tune in to watch, wouldn't you? Think of all the AFC hatred for the Patriots concentrated on one team. Bernard Pollard and Von Miller on one team.... That would be something to see.
Again, though it would have to be financially beneficial to the players to make this game happen.
First a caveat. I know there have been near hundreds of NFL vs. College All Star games in the history of the NFL. I'm going to focus on the most high profile series.
From 1934-1976 there was a regular game played between the NFL Champion (or in some cases runner-ups) and College All Stars. The game was played in Chicago and was depressingly one sided over it's long tenured history. Though it certainly didn't start off that way. The first game in 1934 was played to a soccer-esque 0-0 tie between the Chicago Bears and the All Stars. In all, the College All Stars won only nine contests.
I know what you're thinking. "No way would I want Champ Bailey out there in some meaningless exhibition game to get injured against some blah blah blah...." I feel you. I understand. I don't want that either. This suggestion is more in lieu of or adjacent to the the Pro Bowl. It's my assumption that there is brand of college seniors who want to prove themselves on an NFL level and for whatever reason don't feel like they're going to get a fair shake due to the school they went to or academic/disciplinary problems. At this very second in the NFL there are Pro Bowl alternates/second stringers/third stringers/practice squad players who need to prove themselves who would be willing to play in this game. Tiki Barber and Terrell Owens would have killed themselves to play in a game like this. All to get an opportunity to prove they still got it. Considering the growing popularity of the Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl and the new NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, collegiate rosters could easily be formed.
There was a market for an NFL vs. Collegiate game at one time and there could be again... So long as it's tweaked to accommodate the realities of today's NFL.
So there you have it. Three ideas to make the Pro Bowl more interesting. Maybe they're too far fetched. Maybe some of those ideas are past their prime. I will tell you this: The NFL is at an all time high in popularity and they're missing the boat with the Pro Bowl. They need to get out in front of it. They need to make it the big deal it once was.