BY THOMAS DRANCE
Ah yes it’s football’s biggest game this weekend, the one everyone waits all year for. Oh, the Super Bowl is next weekend you say? Well that’s okay, because we’ve got the Pro Bowl to tide us over!…? (Ugh).
Now I’d like to propose an awesome idea to make the Pro Bowl, you know, at all watchable. No smart guy, it’s not “cancel the Pro Bowl” it’s the second best possible idea to make the Pro Bowl an event worth our time.
The thing is, the Pro Bowl isn’t alone in being a crummy all-star game. All-Star games usually suck no matter the sport. The summer classic and the NBA all-star game are the two best, while the Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star game are the two worst, and this has a lot to do with the fact that they’re “contact sports” and players aren’t usually willing to put their bodies on the line for a showcase. So the second rate efforts are unavoidable.
But the Pro Bowl is alone in that, there isn’t even a showcase event that stands apart from the game itself that the players care about.
NBA players care about being the Slam Dunk champion because it’s a point of pride and also because it opens the door to a whole whack of sponsorship money. They also care about winning the three point competition, partly because Larry Legend won it.
In Major League Baseball, sluggers – even those who’ve only recently returned from injury – participate in the home run derby. Sluggers have a chip on their shoulder, and they want to be anointed the slugger among all sluggers by their very nature. Much like the dunk competition, it’s the showcase event of the all-star festivities.
Hockey doesn’t have a perfect comparable, but it seems to me that players do legitimately care about winning the hardest shot competition and the shooting accuracy event as well. Everyone remembers Ray Bourque nailing all four targets, don’t they? For the hardest shot competition, at the moment, it’s not really contested because physics dictate that no one will shoot the puck as hard as 6’7″ behemoth Zdeno Chara, but you just know that sometimes, late at night, that eats away at Shea Weber.
So why doesn’t the Pro Bowl have anything equivalent to these sideshow events? If you don’t think that more defensive players would show up to the Pro Bowl if they could hit a practice dummy adorned with electronic sensors designed to measure the force of impact, for the right to be named “the NFL’s hardest hitter,” then you don’t know much about how most professional athletes are hard-wired.
Who wouldn’t want to see an offensive lineman besieged on all sides in measured intervals as they try to protect a flag (or some sort of marker) from defensive players trying to get around them, for the title “Best Blocker”?
Who doesn’t want to see quarterbacks unload the longest distance throw they can for the right to have their arm be known as “The Best Arm”? Or hit targets (like the NHL’s most accurate shooter competition) that are preferably moving for the right to be known as “The NFL’s Most Accurate Passer”?
The Pro Bowl needs mini-games, people. Sponsors would eat it up and so would the players and the fans. This is something I would legitimately watch, and thus it could save the Pro Bowl (which I’ve never legitimately watched).
What are your thoughts? Would you watch NFL mini-games? Suggest some other ones in the comments!