Does Pro Bowl Need to Exist?
For years, the NFL has sought to reinvigorate the Pro Bowl and its place within the sport. No longer a yearly trip to Hawaii and long since being an actual competitive game, the Pro Bowl has become little more than an afternoon of recess activities. Does it really serve a purpose at this point?
Does Pro Bowl Need to Exist?
For a time, the Pro Bowl was an event that resembled an actual football game. Although the level of competition wasn’t one traditionally seen during a regular season Sunday game, it was still something that all participating parties were invested in. From there, it became more of an NBA All-Star contest in which defense was optional and tackling had boiled down to little more than aggressive two-hand touch.
Now shifted to flag football and a handful of skill games, the Pro Bowl is less of an event than a series of mini-games intended to cover television air time. When the activities took place over the weekend in Florida, fans still showed up because that’s the power of the NFL, but is this a practice that really needs to continue going forward?
According to Sports Media Watch, ratings sagged for this year’s festivities. “Sunday’s NFL Pro Bowl Games averaged a combined 3.1 rating and 5.79 million viewers across ABC (2.1, 3.85M), ESPN (1.0, 1.83M), Disney XD (0.05, 75K) and ESPN Deportes (0.02, 42K), marking the smallest audience on record for the NFL’s annual All-Star event, excluding the taped, virtual “Pro Bowl Celebration” in 2021. Ratings fell 9% and viewership 8% from last year, which marked the debut of the new flag football format (3.4, 6.28M).”
This is still the NFL, though; in America, that league is king. “Even at a new low, the Pro Bowl still averaged a higher rating and more viewers than last year’s NBA All-Star Game on TNT and TBS (4.59M). (The NBA game still ranks ahead in the young adult demographics.) The Pro Bowl Games ranked as the highest-rated and most-watched sportscast of the weekend, comfortably topping a pair of high-profile Saturday basketball games — a Duke-North Carolina men’s college basketball game on ESPN (1.6, 3.20M) and a Lakers-Knicks NBA regular season game on ABC (1.6, 2.74M).”
Despite the rivalry and competitiveness of both Duke and North Carolina this year, that tilt couldn’t overtake the Pro Bowl Games. It’s not surprising that Major League Baseball continues to be the gold standard for all-star festivities, as it’s the only sport that can be played with a relative level of integrity. Still, though, the NFL doing numbers despite offering a lacking product is something truly amazing.
It seems unlikely that Roger Goodell would off something that turns revenue for the league and owners, but it is worth wondering if the planning and organization are worthwhile. Ultimately, few fans would miss the practice of tuning in for any portion of the Pro Bowl, but the week between Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl would remain barren. In a landscape that supports alternative football leagues solely to consume more of the sport, the Pro Bowl Games provide an opportunity to provide that.
Nothing about what the NFL put on last weekend was exciting or necessary, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
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.