Ah, the NFL Pro Bowl.
No matter how many commercials you show, no matter how much the players pledge to play harder, no matter how beautiful Honolulu looks — I will not watch thee.
And it’s possible no one will ever again.
Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened that this year’s game might be the last Pro Bowl if players don’t try to put on a better show. In recent years we’ve seen defenses seemingly intentionally allowing huge plays. It reached the point that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers called out his teammates for not trying last year.
Judging from the final score — a 62-35 NFC victory — nothing changed this year.
Admittedly I didn’t watch the game, and why would I? The game is a total joke and there’s no reason to keep the charade around.
Let’s start with the roster factor.
The NFC’s quarterbacks were supposed to be Rodgers, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan — a formidable trio. The three quarterbacks that actually took the field were the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and New Orleans’ Drew Brees — a talented, but clearly second-rate bunch.
I get that the players who will participate in the Super Bowl the following week clearly won’t play in the Pro Bowl, but San Francisco alone was supposed to send nine players. That’s nine players who get to add “Pro Bowl” to their resumé even though they didn’t exactly earn the honor and are only in Hawai’i as replacements.
Both starting wide receivers for the NFC, both starting tight ends for the AFC and all three outside linebackers for the NFC were all voted in and didn’t play. Is this supposed to be an All-Star Game or just a glorified practice among some decent players in the NFL?
Here’s the kicker and the absolute No. 1 reason to get rid of the Pro Bowl: The Kansas City Chiefs sent six, yes six, players to the Pro Bowl. The same Chiefs were so bad this past season that they “earned” the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft by accumulating all of two wins.
One more time: The worst team in the NFL had six Pro Bowlers.
I could stop there as I think the previous sentence gets my point across, but let’s analyze the game a little bit — no, I didn’t watch the game live, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read countless articles and watched endless highlights.
On the AFC’s third play from scrimmage, Houston Texans defensive end (and former Wisconsin standout) J.J. Watt lined up at wide receiver. If Watt doesn’t win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award it will be a travesty — but here he is, in a game the players swear up and down they’re trying hard to win, playing offense. At least it only took three plays to know this game was going to be like any other.
Watt lined up at receiver one other time in the game, but didn’t record a catch on two targets. If you were trying to win, wouldn’t it be wiser to put actual wide receivers on the field? The AFC sported some dynamic players with A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Demaryius Thomas on the roster. No, I guess it makes sense to put Watt out there instead.
Also in the “improved effort” we got to see Packers center Jeff Saturday snap the ball to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The two were longtime teammates in Indianapolis and Saturday announced that he’s retiring at the end of the season.
There are many problems with the aforementioned scenario. First, Saturday was on the NFC roster while Manning suited up for the AFC. So yes, Saturday actually played for both teams. It’s like a kids’ street game where they don’t have enough players so someone has to be all-time quarterback.
The other issue I have with the Saturday-to-Manning play is that Saturday was on the NFC roster to begin with. He got benched by the Packers halfway through the season and replaced with Evan Dietrich-Smith. He wasn’t even the best center on his team, how could he be one of the best centers in the conference?
If we’re being perfectly honest, it wasn’t even that touching of a moment. It was just more cheese in a game that had plenty of it already. Maybe I’m alone in my thinking, but when I watch sports I want to, you know, watch sports. I don’t need to see a painstakingly long ceremony where every Los Angeles Kings players get to hold the Stanley Cup again. I don’t need to see Wade Boggs ride a horse around the warning track or Cal Ripken Jr. playing shortstop in his final All-Star game. Of course, this is also coming from a guy who absolutely refuses to watch the halftime show at the Super Bowl. I quite literally watched a Traveling Wilburys music video during last year’s halftime garbage.
To be fair, I would be on board with keeping the Pro Bowl title. Honoring the league’s elite players with an All-Star team is fantastic. But when that team doesn’t include Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, well, it’s just a sham.
So if you actually enjoy watching the Pro Bowl for some twisted reason, I hope you enjoyed the combined 97 points the teams put up this year — the third-most ever. Hopefully, we shan’t be seeing it again.
And if you think I sound bitter about the Pro Bowl now, imagine if Ray Lewis was in it.
Stefan Gestwicki is the Chautauqua Star sports editor. Comments on this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.