By Andy Benoit, www.NFLTouchdown.com
A few years ago I wrote in one of my NFL Touchdown preview books that the NFL should move the Pro Bowl from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before, in order to make the event part of the Super Bowl hype. I was proud of myself at the time for constructing what I thought was a shrewd idea.
However, I had a conversation with my close friend, Jeff Coruccini, owner of the website FantasyFootballStarters.com. Jeff told me my idea was, basically, terrible. He said the point of the Pro Bowl is not to draw fans and big ratings, but rather, to reward players, media and major NFL sponsors with a fun, relaxing trip to Hawaii. I found myself changing my mind and agreeing with him at the time.
Now that the NFL actually has moved the 2010 Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl, I find myself agreeing with Jeff even more. In short, hosting the game two weeks early in Miami next year is a bad idea. A horrendous idea. We've heard players such as Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis speak out against the plan. Here are five reasons why the 2010 Pro Bowl idea stinks.
1. The NFL is indeed hoping the Pro Bowl can add to the Super Bowl hype. But none of the players in the Super Bowl will be able to play. Plus, there's already so much Super Bowl hype that adding an event as major as entire game will be overkill. The Pro Bowl won't build the Super Bowl hype, it will just make fans less receptive to the rest of the ubiquitous Super Bowl hype.
2. Super Bowl players won't be the only guys sitting out. You'll probably see most of the players from the losing teams of the AFC and NFC championship game pass on the opportunity, as well. Think about it. A player's season comes to an end on Championship Sunday. Do you think he really wants to pack his bags on Monday, get on a plane and immediately endure another week of practice? And do you think he'll want to be down in Miami, surrounded by Super Bowl hype, which constantly reminds him that he came so close but fell short? And normally the Pro Bowl is coached by the staff of the losing team from the championship game. Are any of those coaches going to want to immediately go back to work for a meaningless game?
3. On top of the Super Bowl players and championship game players sitting out, you'll still get your usual slew of veterans and injured guys passing on the game as well. Usually a fourth of Pro Bowlers stay home. With the game being two weeks earlier, that means players will have had two less weeks to rest and heal up after the season. Don't be surprised if more than 50 percent of players sit out.
4. Miami is not Hawaii. As Ray Lewis said: Hawaii is a vacation; Miami is where a lot of players go to work out. Everyone in the NFL has been to Miami. Not everyone has been to Hawaii. Players' families aren't going to get excited about Miami.
5. No matter when it's played, the Pro Bowl will never count for anything. Teams can only run base packages offensively, and blitzing is not allowed defensively. Nobody cares who wins. No players are willing to get hurt, or even sore. In a lot of ways, the Pro Bowl is the antithesis of professional football. The league thinks it will have more media coverage because of all the reporters already in town to cover the Super Bowl. Perhaps. But if there were, say, 100 reporters covering the game before. And now say there will be 500. All that means is, there will be five times as many people unenthusiastically reporting that the Pro Bowl stinks.
So what can the league do? Here's a thought: nothing. The Pro Bowl has always been bad TV. It's okay – the NFL has managed to become America's superpower sports league anyway. As long as people within the NFL enjoy the experience (i.e. get to rendezvous in Hawaii) and sponsors are compensated just enough to feel the event worthwhile, everything's fine.
Everything is fine this year, but it won't be next year. The Pro Bowl in Miami will be a disaster.
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