For those who weren't aware, the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl is coming up this Sunday. The game will come to us live from Honolulu on Fox at 4:00pm pacific time. The league moved it to the Sunday before the Super Bowl as they try and figure out ways to boost interest in the game. It's the only All Star game that does not occur at mid-season and that seems to affect the viability of the game, as well as fan interest.
As we ponder the Pro Bowl, it's a lot more interesting to discuss ways to improve the game and the format rather than discussing whatever supposed story lines there are heading into the game. The game is fairly dull in part because the rules are simplified to protect player safety. If that's not proof it's a meaningless game, I don't know what is.
As we prepare for the Pro Bowl, I had a few thoughts on ways to improve the game. The Pro Bowl kicks off at 4pm, following the 1pm NHL All Star Game, which is on Versus. The NHL has shaken things up this year by getting rid of the conference versus conference format. Instead they have a list of All Stars and the team captains will select the players much like kids do in school-yard sports. I bring this up now because as we speak the NHL is conducting the All Star Game draft on Versus (it's re-airing immediately afterwards at 6pm pacific).
This seems like a perfect idea that should be implemented in other sports. Baseball won't be doing it anytime soon because of the nature of World Series home field advantage being determined, but it makes sense for basketball and football. There'd be an even greater sense of strategy in football because of the need to fill specific positions. Do you grab receivers and running backs right off the bat, or do you go with a big offensive tackle to protect your blind side? Given the lack of knowledge some players might have about the other side of the ball, maybe have an offensive captain and a defensive captain so they can consult on picks.
The other change I'd make would be much more drastic. The game itself is meaningless and there is always concern about injuries. Instead of a normal football game, why not play flag football or touch football? A flag football game on the beach led to Robert Edwards nasty knee injury so that is certainly a reasonable concern. But I think if you have it on a grass field versus the sand you might be able to abate that concern.
In addition to that I think you need to have some kind of skills competition. You can have a variety of skills for all of the positions. Even the kickers can have a field goal kicking contest based on distance and/or accuracy. Why continue with the charade of the Pro Bowl? Nobody cares about the game other than Fox's hopes for decent ratings. The odds of me watching the Pro Bowl are somewhere between slim and none. However, I will most likely watch the NHL All Star Game. I've always found it to be one of the more entertaining All Star Games.