When the NFL announced this week that it was ending the Pro Bowl in its current form, no one went to the curb. Instead, it’s time for the league to admit that the prank went on too long.
• Read more: The Pro Bowl formula was changed to “flag football”.
When all sports are combined, soccer is the sport that lends itself least to a reliable all-star game. Communication is such a part of the game that asking players to risk injury to entertain people when there is nothing at stake has become unthinkable.
Presented since 1951, the Pro Bowl has long piqued fan interest but, increasingly, has been played with little hope. It’s easy to understand players who, after a physically and mentally taxing season, don’t crave another demolition derby.
As a result, the show gradually declined and became a real disgrace in recent years. The NFL tried a few experiments, dampened interest, and didn’t succeed.
The league revealed its intentions to transform the traditional Pro Bowl into a week-long event that would focus on skill contests and culminate in a presentation of a “flag football” game.
The rivalry between the All-Stars of the American Conference and the All-Stars of the National Conference turned out to be less extravagant than a Tupperware demonstration anyway.
Maybe try to shake things up by handing the event over to former star quarterback Peyton Manning and his company, Omaha Productions. Knowing that he’s been selected to the Pro Bowl 14 times himself and has listened to players’ grievances over the years, it’s an interesting premise to start over.
Over the years, the NFL has had more and more trouble attracting players. Some attended the Super Bowl, others were nursing injuries and those with little interest used any excuse not to participate in this masquerade.
The honor of being selected is always important to players, but participation in this tournament is not the same.
While 88 players are invited each year, fewer than 135 players were invited to line up in 2016. This shows how far we have to draw.
It was obviously a problem, but commissioner Roger Goodell and his allies stubbornly continued to offer the Pro Bowl, as long as the ratings were meeting. In the last Pro Bowl, the ratings were extremely low and the league pulled the plug.
All is not resolved
Switching to a new formula is good, but not everything is solved. The player selection process, which resembles the most popular tournament, does not seem questionable.
In this sense, the All-Star Team (All Pro) represents more than the players invited to the Pro Bowl, and they are often substitutes for alternates.
Right, players selected to the All-Star team are often left out of the Pro Bowl, which is silly. For example, in 2018, of the 27 players selected to the All-Star team, six were not invited to the Pro Bowl, or 22% of the most eligible.
The new formula will certainly not be perfect, but at least it will have the merit of not pretending to provide a true fit.
5 things to watch out for
1. The Lamar Jackson Effect
Rarely have we seen a player make as much of an impact on offense as Lamar Jackson this season. Not only does he lead quarterbacks with 10 touchdown passes, but he is fifth in the league in rushing yards (243 yards). Combining passing and running, he accounted for 12 touchdowns for the Ravens. On its own, it has more than 29 out of 32 teams!
2. Notice to the best
The Patriots are in Green Bay, possibly without quarterback Mack Jones. The news sparked a bombardment among bookmakers, who favor the Packers by 10 points. Why talk about it? Because, according to ESPN, this is only the second time in the last 20 seasons that the Patriots have been outscored by at least 10 points. Last time, against the Chiefs in 2020, they lost by 16 points after trailing by 11 points.
3. Lots of equality
For the fifth time since the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970, only two teams have yet to taste victory after three weeks of action: the Raiders (0-3) and the Texans (0-2-1). This has happened before in 2012, 1990, 1989 and 1988. The last time a team went 0-3 after three weeks was in 1959 by the Lions.
4. Oh Canada
This week and next, NFL players will have the opportunity to recognize their country of birth or their immediate family by wearing the flag on their helmets. So, 14 Canadian soldiers, Montrealer Benjamin Saint-Just, along with the commanders, accepted the initiative. Other Canadians participating are Chase Claypool (Steelers), Joshua Palmer (Chargers), Subah Hubbard (Panthers) and Neville Gallimore (Cowboys).
5. Dominant Travis Kelce
Even at age 32, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce shows no signs of slowing down. He already has 17 receptions for 230 yards this season. If he adds 51 yards this week, he could move up to fifth all-time. Among tight ends, Tony Gonzalez has 15,127 yards, followed by Jason Witten (13,046 yards), Antonio Gates (11,841 yards), Shannon Sharp (10,060 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (9,286 yards).