The NFL Pro Bowl is So Much Worse than the NBA All-Star Game
If you are a multi-sport fan like me, you probably watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night. One thing that stands out year after year is how this product is so consistently better than the NFL Pro Bowl. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one for me is this: the NBA seems to be the only league that has completely bought into the idea that an All-Star Game is supposed to be a performance and spectacle more than an actual competition.
After so many years of complaints of the game not mattering or a lack of effort in professional All-Star games, it seems the NBA has finally created the perfect format from their live draft between two captains, putting an emphasis on “quarter scores” over total points, and the “target score” that is set after three quarters. It’s really a fool-proof system. For 36 minutes, the league’s best players get to mess around on the court and make flashy plays. Then by the end, things tighten up and the competitive spirit takes over, leaving us with the memory of cold-blooded game-winning buckets. It gives the illusion of a competitive event while also being a combination of the 3-point and dunk contents for the majority of the night.
Meanwhile you have the NFL Pro Bowl that is a snooze fest every single year. The league seems more concerned with maintaining the integrity of the game rather than putting forth an entertaining product. With this as the focus, it makes sense why we see such half-hearted effort by the players on the field. Football is naturally a very violent sport, and these guys just spent the last 3+ months putting their bodies on the line. Anyone playing in the game had managed to make it out mostly unscathed, so why risk that in a meaningless game? The Pro Bowl is begging to be a flag football game, and the league should just make it happen.
That’s not the only thing holding the Pro Bowl back, though. I’ve always been extremely confused why it takes place a week after the conference championship games rather than during the regular season. It is so strange that a week after watching Patrick Mahomes walk off the field in one of the most disappointing losses of his life, we see him play an All-Star Game. It has a very similar feel to the NBA awards show after the 2019 NBA Finals where Giannis Antetokounmpo was awarded MVP of the league after being demolished by the Toronto Raptors in four straight playoff games.
Especially with an expanded schedule, it makes much more sense for this to take place following Week 9 or Week 10 in the schedule. If player safety is actually a concern, giving players an extra week to recuperate before a final push would be ideal. It also eliminates the possibility of players being put in awkward positions of playing this All-Star game immediately after playoff losses.
My final idea is my favorite, though. The reason that the game can’t really be all that exciting is because the field is 100-yards long. There are too many plays that don’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of a game. Instead of a fourth quarter, the NFL should take the ideas of the old college football overtime rules and place the ball that the opponent’s 25-yard line.
The determining factor in how a team wins is simple. Take the total number of touchdowns scored to that point in the game, divide it by four, round to the closest whole number, and that’s how many touchdowns the leading team has to score in order to win. Whichever team is losing after three quarters has to score that number, plus one more. Best case scenario, it creates a dramatic ending that is memorable and satisfying. Even though the first three quarters might be filled with guys messing around, the thing fans will remember is Justin Herbert throwing a touchdown to Travis Kelce to win the Pro Bowl.
Obviously, the NFL probably isn’t too concerned about the performance of the Pro Bowl. They are the top-rated sport in America for a reason, and that is because the product week-to-week is top notch. However, some of these changes would likely make more fans look forward to Pro Bowl weekend a lot more than they do right now.