Pro bowl 2020 is just around the corner, where the best AFC and NFC players matchup against each other in a one off game before the Super Bowl, but do we really need it in our game? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of the pro bowl to see if it’s really needed.
The history of the pro bowl
The pro bowl has been around a very long time, the first AFC-NFC pro bowl was played in the 1951 NFL season where the AFC defeated their rivals 28-27. Prior to this, It was named the pro all-star game, which was played in the 1938 season, but not until ‘51 did it change to the pro bowl.
The AFC are leading the NFC 24-22 in pro bowl wins and have won the last three all-star games between the two conferences. Asserting their dominance in American football, the AFC are looking for a fourth pro bowl in a row on January 26.
Currently, players are voted into the pro bowl by coaches, the players themselves and by the fans. each group’s ballots count for one third of the votes. The fans vote online at the NFL’s official website. The here are also replacements that go to the game should any selected player be unable to play due to injuries. Prior to 1995, only the coaches and the players made Pro bowl selections. The NFL changed this due to bringing the fans closer to the game to help them get more involved.
The Pro Bowl has different rules from regular NFL games in order to make the game safer. Let’s have a look at some of the changes:
- No motion or shifting by the offence
- Offense must have a running back and tight end in all formations
- No rushing punts, PATs or FG attempts
- 35-second play clock to run plays
- Teams will start on their own 25-yard line after any score or at the start of each half/odd overtime
- 35-second play clock to run plays
- 44-player roster per team Limited contact is allowed, provided ball carrier is surrounded by opponents
- Cannot end in a tie, multiple 15 minute OT periods will be played with sudden death rules thereafter.
As you can see, this a very different ball game, some say the game is like ‘touch’ football due to the safety rule changes and this can be seen as stale affair for the fans, but these players have gone through a 16 week season with some appearing in the offseason, changes are needed to protect the players.
- The fans come first – This is one of the main reasons the pro bowl is actually a thing, it gives the fans a chance to wear their favourite jerseys, support players that aren’t playing for their chosen franchise, and to just enjoy a football game with no real competition or stress. People come out in strong numbers to take part in the weekend activities. An added bonus is that the competition is held at warm weather venues in the middle of winter.
- It’s an honor for the players – Coaches, fans, and even the athletes themselves all have a say about who is chosen for the Pro Bowl. Each of the group’s ballots makes up one third of the total votes. So, being picked to take part in the game is surely revered in the football world. Also, the elite athletes who receive the honor numerous times have a good chance of being a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which, as you know is an amazing achievement in football.
- The players risk injury – As we already know, football is a barbaric sport where catastrophic injuries are very common. So it comes as no surprise that some players are concerned for their physical wellbeing in a game that is basically meaningless. A few of them actually skip it and just enjoy the perks of the selection.
- There’s a perceived “lack of effort” from players – A major criticism about the Pro Bowl involves the allegation that a lot of players show no effort and basically go through the motions on the field. In recent years, it had gotten so bad that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell actually showed public disappointment and even considered getting rid of the game altogether in 2012.
“I really didn’t think that was the kind of football that we want to be demonstrating for our fans,” Goodell told ESPN. “And you heard it from the fans. The fans were actively booing in the stands. They didn’t like what they were seeing.” Green Bay Packers star QB Aaron Rodgers also expressed his dismay for the poor play, saying some of the guys from his NFC team “embarrassed themselves.”
NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell.
You could say their is a mixed view on the pro bowl in terms of the fans – the majority of them like it for the excitement of all their favourite conference players playing together, because where else apart from Madden can you get an ‘ultimate team’ together and watch the magic unfold? But on the other side, a handful of fans think the pro bowl is useless and unexciting – mainly due to the rule changes. You’re always going to get this divide with fans and of course you cannot please everyone but for how long the pro bowl has been going on for, it would seem silly to scrap it.
If the Pro bowl isn’t working for the fans, players, or coaches, there could be some changes that could be put in place for it to be more enjoyable for everyone involved. Here’s a couple of changes that could change the dynamic of the pro bowl.
- Play the pro bowl in the UK – As everyone knows, the American football scene has had an amazing increase in traffic and supporters across the UK for a couple of seasons now, the introduction of the London games have also had a dramatic effect on this. If the Americans don’t think it’s useful to them, why not try and hold the pro bowl over here in the UK? it would increase the sports knowledge over here, bring more fans to the sport and create a bigger, stronger community across the pond. something to think about?
- Bring some of the NFL’s rules into the pro bowl – Roger Goodell can continue to blame the players for a lack of effort, but it isn’t like the NFL is pushing them to compete more, as discussed above, the rule changes make it so different to a normal NFL game, it really isn’t an NFL game, changing some of the rules, like no blitzing or rushing the kicker would make a big difference in making the pro bowl more enjoyable for everyone.
- Why is it so close to the Super bowl? – The main goal of every team is to obviously win the the super bowl. doing so is very difficult without a random skill game just 2 weeks before the big final. Imagine qualifying for the super bowl with your franchise, and getting in the pro bowl, getting injured in the PB and not being able to help your team fight for the super bowl? This would be heartbreaking for the players and coaches, don’t get me started on the fans.The pro bowl is way too close to the Super bowl and could have big impacts on the players, there’s loads of time in the offseason to have a one off game, some time in the summer or even later – I just think it’s too close to what so many players want for it to be justified.
Overall, the pro bowl is supposed to be a fan-fueled enjoyable couple of days out watching the best players from the season battle it out for a small prize, but in conclusion I don’t think it’s really justified and even though it has gone on for nearly 70 years. I cannot see it going away anytime soon but have seen call for change even more over the last couple of seasons. Maybe it’s not a case of scrapping it, but changing the whole dynamic of the pro bowl.