The purpose of the Pro Bowl? To honor the best players in the NFL. Great, vote them in. Send them plaques. Let them collect their bonuses.
But if we think we’re going to see them perform in a game that is worth watching, it’s not happening and it’s not going to happen, so let’s stop trying to make this pig fly.
For the first time since 1980, this year’s Pro Bowl is not going to be in Hawaii. It seemed that interest and participation might be boosted by putting it in Miami – the Super Bowl site – on the Sunday before Super Bowl, a date that had previously been dark.
Seemed like a good idea. This would give fans something to talk about during the dead week. After all, it had felt like such an anticlimactic endeavor on the Sunday following Super Bowl.
But now, it’s pre-climactic, or whatever would be the word for something meaningless that comes before the interesting stuff.
It shouldn’t be considered a news flash that the teams that make it to the Super Bowl generally feature some of the largest contingents of Pro Bowl players. Naturally, they’re not going to play in the Pro Bowl, so this year, the Colts and Saints are going to pull 14 players – nine starters – off the Pro Bowl rosters.
More specifically, that includes the starting quarterbacks for each side, the Colts’ Peyton Manning and the Saints’ Drew Brees.
Toss in the injured players, and the rosters have 17 replacements.
Fans around here will note that they still haven’t worked their way far enough down to include a Seahawks player. And this was a season where you really had to work hard not to get a guy on the team. Twenty-eight of the 32 teams have representatives. Zero Seahawks.
But instead of Manning, Philip Rivers or Tom Brady, the AFC roster includes quarterback David Garrard of Jacksonville. What’s the matter, Garrard not one of the top picks in your fantasy league? Garrard was the 17th-rated passer in the NFL (15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions).
Brett Favre, Larry Fitzgerald and Charles Woodson also are missing because of injury.
Do any of the players selected really want to play in this game? Sure, the honor is nice. It’s still considered a valid benchmark of success in the league. But I’d wager that only the guys on hand for the first time are really enthused.
Most of them have been getting banged around since the end of July and don’t want to have to suit up again, even if it is just a glorified game of two-hand touch.
What does management think of the game and its new setup? Colts president Bill Polian called it “stupid” and a “distraction” to his players. Seven of them have to fly to Miami on Saturday to be around for the Pro Bowl on Sunday, just to be there for the introductions of those players voted to the team.
Polian sees it as a considerable disruption to the team’s preparations for the Super Bowl, and he’s got a point.
Obviously, this sport does not lend itself to an all-star game because of its physical nature. The old saw is that you’re more likely to get hurt when you’re not going full-speed. Well, nobody’s going full-speed in this one.
It just no longer makes sense.
Some may remember the College All-Star Game when it was the popular kickoff to the NFL exhibition season. They took a collection of college stars and had them play against the defending NFL champion team.
Once these incoming rookies started signing big contracts and were needed to step in right off and help the teams that drafted them, clubs started balking at having their young stars missing training camp and risking injury.
The way the league had evolved, the game was no longer logical and was dropped. Funny, nobody hears much uproar about bringing back that game.
The same thing will happen with the Pro Bowl. No one will miss it when it’s gone.
Keep the vote and the honor, but let them all stay home from now on.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440