Point: Pro Bowl necessary but needs changes

I feel like I’m the only football fan in America that’s pleased to hear the NFL’s Pro Bowl is staying in Hawaii for at least one more year.

Then again, not too many people had the privilege of growing up just two minutes away from Aloha Stadium.

I’m still somewhat surprised that there was little rejoice when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed the Pro Bowl’s existence in 2013. Since the NFL is the model American pro sports league, it’d be weird not seeing it have an all-star game. Fans should be excited about watching an extra game before heading into the long offseason.

Despite denials from fans about watching it, 12.5 million people viewed the 2012 game on NBC, while the 2011 game on Fox drew 13.4 million — making the Pro Bowl the highest-rated all-star game in sports both years. The state of Hawaii reeled in over $25 million from this year’s exhibition — but suffered a significant economic blow when the Pro Bowl was moved to Miami in 2010.

Is this game perfect? No. Cam Newton’s passing woes were merely the least of the exhibition’s problems this year. It’s a huge shocker the Pro Bowl was reinstated without any changes, despite how much the football community griped. The game could be (somewhat) significant if they made the following changes:

 

- Bring back the Skills Challenge

Remember when ESPN used to air the Pro Bowl Skills Challenge in the days before the actual game? Quarterbacks threw at targets, linemen competed in a bench press competition and kickers played H-O-R-S-E, but the game was nixed after 2007 when the grass lawn adjacent to the players’ hotel that hosted the festivities was torn out to build another hotel.

I’m sure it can be marketed enough to rival NBA All-Star Saturday if the competitions were revived at Aloha Stadium on the eve of the Pro Bowl, and the Skills competition would be an excellent compliment to the actual game.

- Move the game to the week after the Super Bowl

Fans always want to see the best athletes play, and removing Super Bowl participants not only diminishes that, but also seems unfair to the players that didn’t take an early vacation.

And why would anyone pay much attention to the Pro Bowl one week before The Big Game while everyone is dissecting the Super Bowl?

- Make the game meaningful

Give the players something they can play for. Ante up the rewards of winning and the consequences of losing by making it affect the regular season.

Here’s one idea to consider: the winning conference of the Pro Bowl gets to call the coin toss in every inter-conference matchup the following season — maybe even in the Super Bowl if the Pro Bowl remains before The Big Game.

- Get linemen involved, or don’t send them at all

Isn’t it funny the NFL flies linemen to Hawaii each year just so they can play patty-cake with each other in the Pro Bowl? Give the quarterbacks flags they can pull so both parties can still clash with minor injury, or better yet, get rid of them and make the game into an exciting, pass-happy 7-on-7 game.

Reach the columnist at jnacion@asu.edu