Before I start this, let me preface things by saying I love fantasy football. I am one of those people who cares more about my fantasy team than my favorite professional franchise (the Tennessee Titans for those who are concerned).
But my love of fantasy football didn’t make this year’s Pro Bowl, which adopted a format similar to that seen in fantasy, of any worth.
The Pro Bowl is the NFL’s version of an all-star game. And it is terrible. This year’s edition was won by Team Rice, 22-21, against Team Sanders with a last minute touchdown and 2-point conversion.
I usually watch it because I like football and during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, anything that can take time away from ESPN’s unbearable coverage of the Super Bowl is a plus. But every time I watch the game, I come away regretting the experience.
This year — to inject some life to a dying event, I guess — the game had two NFL Hall of Famers in wide receiver Jerry Rice and defensive back Deion Sanders draft two teams from a select pool of elite players.
If this sounds exactly like an elementary school gym class with two kids choosing teams, then you see the major problem with this format.
In a game that struggled to bring out the best in players, who didn’t want to risk an injury heading into the offseason, turning it into a glorified pick-up game isn’t exactly going to help.
Plus, although Derrick Johnson is willing to lay out his franchise’s best player — Johnson is a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs and tackled teammate and running back Jamaal Charles during the game — I’m pretty sure he is in the minority.
Imagine if you were a defensive player and a guy who is worth millions of dollars to your employer is on the opposite side of the field from you, I’m pretty sure on some level, you would hesitate when going for the tackle.
Until the NFL begins to add more of an incentive for playing — they get paid thousands of dollars, but to players making millions this is chump change — this game will be more about not getting hurt than about putting a good product on the field.
In a game like basketball or baseball, where the risk of injury is much smaller, you can create something that is fun but still has effort involved. But football is such a violent sport that an all-star game will be nothing more than a distraction.
Do I like what the Pro Bowl is, a way of honoring the players that have performed the best during the year? Sure. Who wouldn’t? But it is just not likely that we are ever going to get an entertaining product out of it, like we do in the NBA and MLB.
Maybe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was right last year — maybe it is time we get rid of the Pro Bowl.