Not to be such a negative Nancy on my first post back in quite some time, but really when you’re surrounded by the media treating this game like the joke that it is, I can’t really help it. Just from my initial evaluation from my own Facebook news feed (which I assure you is filled with plenty of sports fans), there were more people watching the SAG awards last night and mocking the Pro Bowl than actually watching it. Are we surprised? Has it always been such a joke? I decided to investigate…
Quick summary assuming you are one of the millions that, like me, did NOT bother with this silly WWE-like show of BS: final score was 62-35 with the NFC coming out on top. The game was played in Honolulu at Aloha Stadium (which I’m sure the players couldn’t have been too upset about), and for a good part of the first quarter, it reminded me of my hometown’s Loyal little league football games or an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway where ‘the plays were made up and the points don’t matter’. Action did eventually pick up and the game was even relatively close in the first part of the second quarter (17-14) and viewers got to enjoy Cruz’s little booty shaking salsa dance, but Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (eventual MVP of the game) must have decided that this game needed a wider margin and some livening up, and after five catches for 122 yards with a touchdown himself, the score at the half was 31-14. And though Luck and the AFC attempted to play catch up, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson headlined the NFC lead ending with a pretty embarrassingly high score.
After doing a little research, it turns out that the Pro Bowl hasn’t always been such a joke (no surprise there). Technically treated as the All Star game for football, the first incarnate to be played was during the 1938 season, only to be phased out by 1942 due to cost restrictions from WWII. Interestingly enough, this first all star game featured the NFL champion New York Giants against a grouping of all stars from all other teams as their competition, in which the Giants still won 13-10. When the concept was revived again in 1950, the concept of gathering all stars from any team as elected by their coaches (and now fan voting) as we know it today was started; first with American Conference vs. National Conference until 1953, then Eastern vs. Western until 1970, and then finally with the dissolve of the American Football League, the NFC vs. the AFC from 1971 to today. In the early days, the game was described as a highly anticipated championship game featuring the greatest players in the NFL of all time, and was seemingly treated as an exciting event where all of the best of the best came together in division and conference rivalry, though always simply in good fun since the winner never really claimed anything beyond meaningless bragging rights. Things always change though, respect and admiration seemingly flew the coop, and unfortunately it appears that ratings really took a nosedive as recently as the early 2000s. Historically, the game is reserved for after the playoffs and Super Bowl have been played, but in 2010 was moved to the week between the end of playoffs and the Super Bowl, presumably to keep ratings and interest up since anticipation is still building for the Super Bowl. Much criticism understandably surrounds the game as well, given the risk of injury to star players over absolutely nothing worthwhile (no ‘home field’ advantage or any other perks are granted to the winning conference as we see in other sports), which will obviously make for a very boring and lackluster game. However, probably the most surprising thing that I found in my research of this pointless game is that since the AFC and NFC were formed and the Pro Bowl has been between these two conferences since the 1970 season, each side had won exactly 21 games, until last night’s NFC victory put them ahead to 22.
You could tell that the Pro Bowl’s existence was being threatened, and while I cannot confirm, I can only assume based off of the tweets that I saw from nearly every participating player that their coaches must have warned them to really suck up and pour some sugar on the day, given Commish Goodell’s word that if it wasn’t played more competitively, it was out. Tweets from fans and viewers – though few and far between – were unanimously negative and mocking in tone (“Andrew Luck always looks like he just woke up from a two hour nap”, “Are they playing flag football or pillow fighting”, etc.), whereas tweets from the athletes were all ‘yay I’m so glad to be here, so excited about the pro bowl, so lucky to participate, who wants to win my gloves’. The Pro Bowl did win in ratings last night, and as much as I we all love to hate it, apparently last year’s game drew 12.3 million viewers, which is only 200k shy of the World Series. Puts things into perspective a bit more, though compared to pretty much any regular season NFL game, viewership is still pretty pathetic. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this spectacle remains in the schedule for the 2013 season come April, though I can’t imagine anyone being all that broken up about it dissolving all together.
In conclusion, I really would like to know – did anyone really honestly watch the Pro Bowl this year?