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The NFL Pro Bowl is a joke

Sure it’s a fantastic celebrity event that’s great for fans - and I’m all for it - but let’s please stop touting it as a prestigious honor for NFL players.

NFL: Pro Bowl Skills Showdown Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

The NFL Pro Bowl is this weekend - a little stopgap in the postseason while we wait for the Super Bowl to arrive, which can’t come soon enough as I just want it over. Give Kansas City the trophy and be done with it. I’m already so over Chiefs fans.

But the sad reality of the Pro Bowl is that I could not care less about it - and I used to enjoy it. The event has become a carnival where an obstacle course relay race and dodgeball have become as competitive (or even moreso) than the actual football game.

Players selected are just as into the celebrity event as the fans. There is no real AFC-NFC rivalry. No one is trying to play real football because no one wants to get hurt. And since the game is now played before the Super Bowl, a number of stars aren’t even in the game.

And if we want to talk about how these players are even selected for the Pro Bowl - an event where somehow the league’s best-graded safety this season, Justin Simmons, couldn’t get a bid - then we definitely cannot consider this some sort of “All Star Game” as it was intended.

I mean, any game where the number of times your name is copied and retweeted on Twitter is a factor in getting invited, is a game that’s impossible to take seriously.

So I fully admit to my cranky nostalgic view that things were better in the old days - when the game came after the Super Bowl so the best of the best could showcase their talent; when players weren’t so concerned about getting injured (because they played through injury all the time); when the concern over losing a big contract due to injury in the game wasn’t even a thought; when there weren’t so many rules restricting the most fun parts of football strategy such as blitzing and pre-snap motions.

But those are not even my biggest gripes when it comes to the Pro Bowl. What I despise is that every year when we start comparing Hall-of-Fame contenders, we hear about the number of seasons with a team in the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl. We hear about career stats such as passes or tackles or receptions or interceptions or touchdowns or sacks. And every player is compared in large part by the number of Pro Bowls they were selected to.

If you were a player in the 70s, 80s or 90s - then the Pro Bowl game was real and the invite was legit. Players still had some fun being teammates with division and conference rivals, but it was mostly from bonding over a desire to have their respective conferences dominate the game over the other. It was actual football being played.

And therefore, being selected to the Pro Bowl was a more true barometer of the player’s talent and his respect from peers and coaches around the league. Now it’s just a social media popularity contest.

But because a nod from the Pro Bowl was a reflection of talent, using it to make a case for the Hall of Fame made sense:

Steve Atwater, an eight-time Pro Bowler, deserves the Hall of Fame in part because he went to the Pro Bowl eight seasons in his illustrious career.

Randy Gradishar, a seven-time Pro Bowler whose career stats should be a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame, deserves the induction in part because of those seven Pro Bowl appearances.

Yet when these younger hot shots start touting their Pro Bowls, the claim to fame carries little weight.

Jess, Tim and I railed on this in our latest podcast and even came up with a few suggestions to make this game more relevant, or at the very least, interesting.

We suggested moving the game back to the week after the Super Bowl, having a larger purse for the payout to increase the incentive, and to include insurance for players who play in the game to protect them financially if they get injured.

If the NFL is serious about having a game that fans care about that also doubles as a true reflection of the league’s best talent and is therefore a legitimate all-star game, then it needs to pay for it.

And if it just wants to continue offering the celebrity event, that’s fine too. I’m all for those.

Just don’t call it a Pro Bowl and consider it a legit factor for players being named to the Hall of Fame.

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