NFL should be ditching the Pro Bowl, not farming it out

NFC cornerback Kyle Fuller (No 23) intercepts a pass intended for AFC receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. Picture: Mark LoMoglio/AP
NFC cornerback Kyle Fuller (No 23) intercepts a pass intended for AFC receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. Picture: Mark LoMoglio/AP
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Last week was the slowest of the NFL season and, as much as the NFL skills 
competition is fun and at least a little interesting, the only other moment worth talking about was Jamal Adams tackling Pat Patriot – The New England Patriots mascot.

The Pro Bowl is a strange beast in that as a game it’s pointless and silly, the media aren’t particularly interested in it, and the fans prefer the build-up to it because they get access to players.

The Pro Bowl had many formats, but more recently it was an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for 
players who had impressed fellow professionals, coaches and fans – but now even that had been taken away with it moved to rainy Orlando, 
Florida.

The format has been rejigged on a semi-regular basis as NFL League office sort ways to make it relevant. The game draws typically a below average TV audience and struggles to sell the game tickets. And as a reporter in 2012 described it, the players were “hitting each other as though they were having a pillow fight”.

Following that league Commissioner Roger Goodell even questioned the validity of the game, stating that if players didn’t show a more competitive nature, he was “not inclined to play it anymore”. That was back in 2013 and much to my – and many 
other fans’ – annoyance he still forces the game on us. Yes, you can choose not to watch the game – and I do, mostly – but why should we have to?

All-star teams are not something we get here in the UK – can you imagine an SPFL All-Star Game? But in the US they are standard and come with some form of value at least. Baseball
had the best concept for motivating
the players to win the All-Star game, where the American League and National League would battle it out and the winner was handed Home Field advantage for the World Series – meaning a potential four home games in the seven-game series – but that was rescinded in 2016, leaving that game with no value either.

The NBA chose to move forward with their All-Star game after similar
issues to the NFL and decided to offer a financial incentive – a member of the winning team would receive $100,000 compared with the losers’ $50,000.

The NHL opts for a play-off system where each of the four divisions plays in semi-finals with the winner collecting, well, just pride?

The All-Star game is a pointless opportunity for these leagues to give fans a sub-par product while rinsing fans of hard-earned cash. Harsh words? Yes. Deserved? Definitely.

So why the rant? Well, rumours abound that after another dismal attendance in Florida this past Sunday the NFL are looking to ship the game abroad. That means the NFL is looking to offload the game to its international fanbase with Germany, Mexico and even Brazil on the radar.

The good news, of course, is that the UK is not on that list.

But the bad news is that if Goodell and the other decision makers indeed decide that they can move the game abroad and sell it to international audiences, they really have missed the point. Yes, the league is developing and, yes, they managed to sell out four games here in the UK, but they risk alienating the European fanbase and eroding the goodwill they’ve built.

It’s time for the NFL to let the game die. Have an awards evening and use this Sunday to host the Senior Bowl – a game where the best from college are asked to perform with NFL head coaches calling the plays. Because at least those players will give it their all and leave the pillows in their hotel.

The victory in the game went to the AFC all-stars 26-7 in a game that the AFC seemed to take more seriously. The AFC defence recorded seven sacks and three interceptions all before Jacksonville Jaguars Jalen Ramsey caught a touchdown pass playing as part of the Offense for the first time since 
college.

While this was the third win in a row for the AFC, this game is still nothing more than a placeholder to remind people the Super Bowl is up next.