Given all the hype surrounding Los Angeles Clipper dunking machine Blake Griffin, I decided to watch tonight's NBA Slam Dunk Contest. The 2011 dunk contest was arguably the most anticipated dunk contest since Vince Carter's show in the 2000 dunk contest. Blake Griffin lived up to expectations and the entire field of contestants made for one of the most entertaining dunk contests in some time. All four players (Griffin, Serge Ibaka, JaVelle McGee, and DeMar DeRozan) put together some impressive dunks, which made for an entertaining Saturday evening. Check out our SB Nation Bay Area updates on the Saturday session.
I bring all this up to once again lash out at the irrelevance of the NFL's Pro Bowl. The other three All Star games have found ways to keep fans entertained. Each league provides some reason to watch some aspect of the festivities. The NBA has the dunk contest, the 3-point contest, and a game that provides some fun school-yard style play. The NHL All Star festivities include a high scoring game and a skills challenge that is always impressive to watch. The MLB All Star festivities are usually highlighted by the home run derby, but the game itself can be fairly entertaining.
Then you have the NFL Pro Bowl. Where I would rank the above All Star festivities in some 1-2-3 order (my preference is probably 1. NBA, 2. NHL, 3. MLB), I don't even see fit to include the Pro Bowl because there's really nothing entertaining about it. There might be a highlight or two in the game, but how many people actually want to sit around hoping for something? With the dunk contest or the NBA All Star Game, you get more immediate satisfaction.
I remain convinced that the NFL needs to go with a nationally televised skills competition that everybody actually knows about. You could have accuracy contests for QBs, field goal kicking and punting (for accuracy and distance) contests. Let's bring out the 40 yard dash and have a competition. I'm sure you could get some activities together for linemen and other such positions. Additionally, the game itself should be flag football or something along those lines. People can get hurt in any type of game, but this reduces the risk of injury immensely and might provide a more interesting matchup.
I don't expect changes anytime soon, but the NFL really does need to think this over a bit more. The Pro Bowl has pretty much zero buzz factor at this point. The other All Star Games and festivities have some kind of buzz that is good for publicity and ratings. It's time for the NFL to step up their game. The NFL is arguably the most popular league right now and has become virtually a year-round phenomenon. Having a crappy all star weekend only hurts that image. It may not matter all that much, but why not go for the gusto with your All Star game?