Yes, it still exists. Some of the best football players in the world will be on the field tonight in a game that does not really resemble the sport that they make their living in. A contest with no significance takes place so that the football hungry public has something to do, gamble on, or for once gets to see a Cardinal or Chief “win” something. The Pro Bowl is here.
Try to contain your excitement.
The biggest storyline surrounding this year’s game is if it will be the last chapter in uninspiring exhibition postseason football. The NFL has flirted with the idea of canceling the game or replacing it with some sort of skills competition or less intensive scrimmage. The league is said to be disappointed with the effort and how serious players have taken the game in recent years.
Unlike other major sports, football does not hold their All Star game in the middle of the season. In a physical sport it would be unrealistic to ask players to exert significant effort and risk injury during the season for a game that yields no rewards. It would be the guys who did not make the game, and received a week of rest that would actually win. However, by playing the game at the end of the year players are tired, and unmotivated with no real stakes on the line.
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A trip to Hawaii is nice, but the NFL league minimum salary is nearly $400,000, and few guys making that little are selected to the game. In other words, these guys can afford vacations. Players on the winning team earn $50,000 while the losers get $25,000. Again, with most Pro Bowlers earning millions of dollars this is simply not a big deal.
Another major problem with the game are the rules. With very little time to prepare, and nobody wanting to risk injury, strategy is almost nonexistent. Offenses are not allowed to line up with three receivers on one side, and shifting is illegal. Defenses are prevented from blitzing and playing press coverage. It is a vanilla pick-up game.
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The Pro Bowl is the only game that makes the preseason look good. At least in meaningless games before the season teams are trying to evaluate talent and be at their best come the first regular season game. When the Pro Bowl ends, and probably even before it begins, players are more focused on other things.
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If this is the final Pro Bowl, and you really don't have anything better to do, tune in for the fourth quarter and consider it a rookie game. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson will likely lead their teams at the end of the game. The future of the league is bright, nobody would object to a bleaker long-term outlook for the Pro Bowl.