The Pro Bowl Still Exists, and It’s Weird.

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This weekend, the one between the final two weeks of the NFL playoffs, plays host to the Pro Bowl. It’s a downtime across sports as a whole, and with the only real competition being the NHL All-Star weekend, Roger Goodell undoubtedly is thrilled that he’ll have eyes on the Pro Bowl. But why, with so many knowing how goofy it is, does the Pro Bowl exist?

The short and obvious answer is money. Of course, the NFL is a cash cow that draws in fans in droves, and therefore, any version of the sport being on the air generates a substantial cash flow. Really though, as fans, why do we keep doing this to ourselves?

The Pro Bowl Still Exists, and It’s Weird.

This season the NFL has decided that the Pro Bowl won’t actually be a game in the traditional sense, although it really has never been anyways. Instead of true gridiron football, the NFL will punctuate the Pro Bowl Games with a flag football contest. Seeing the best in the world play a version of their sport derived from schoolyard recess is somewhat endearing. But the weekend is little more than a gimmick.

The Pro Bowl Still Exists
Jan 23, 2020; Kissimmee, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Forever the Pro Bowl was held in Honolulu, Hawaii. It became a staple of the sport that during the weekend, in between conference championship games and the Super Bowl, players would hang ten and relax on the beach before playing patty cake on the field. Football is not a game that can be played at half-speed, and faking attempts to tackle or defend doesn’t really accomplish much.

As that endeavor grew stale, the NFL has tried other things with hopes of reigniting interest. This is the first time we’ll see the schoolyard type of contests highlight the weekend, but the hopes for a raised bar shouldn’t be all that high. The problem is that we all already know this, and yet, the league rakes it in.

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You certainly have players like Justin Jefferson that are worthy of a Pro Bowl nod. It’s hard to care about that being true, however, when Derek Carr and Tyler Huntley are also invited. The level at which the league must stoop to fill out the events is laughable at best. It doesn’t change anything for those originally deserving, but it’s definitely hard to act as though an appearance is worthy of being added to a career resume.

At this point, it’s generally accepted that the Pro Bowl, in whatever form, is a joke. When the ratings come out on Monday, though, the viewership numbers will likely be larger than any NBA game over the weekend and will almost certainly trump the NHL festivities. NFL is king in this country, and you’ll still get eyes no matter how lackluster the product is.

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It’s hard for a sport that saw the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans draw in revenues this season to turn away from any additional exposure. The Pro Bowl is a laughing stock in any form, yet we have seen fans of the NFL watch terrible action for weeks on end from the end of August. Maybe someday the Pro Bowl will cease to exist as anything more than a voted team at the end of the year, but bending to the almighty dollar suggests that is unlikely.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.