When I traveled to Honolulu for the 2005 and 2006 Pro Bowl, I considered those “working” vacations as a reward after covering long and grueling seasons. Hey, almost every season is long and taxing because I cover the AFC North and am forced to observe Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis emerge from the fog of eternity howling at the moon as if he is auditioning to be featured in the sequel of “Twilight.”
Speaking of fog, whatever neurosurgeon came up with the idea of holding the Pro Bowl a week prior to the Super Bowl, with the players representing the NFC and AFC champions appearing in street clothes, must have been in possession of a few bowls of their own or at least a hookah filled with the finest marijuana imported straight from the “streets of San Francisco.”
Wasn’t the “Streets of San Francisco” a television series starring Michael Douglas before he starred in the weirdo movie, “Fatal Attraction?” Well, if it isn’t, forgive me for having a few bowls of my own medicine. But back to the “problematic” bowl. An all-star game is supposed to be a reward for above average performance. What if the NHL all-star game were held a week before the Stanley Cup finals? Or baseball held their contest a week before the World Series? Would that scenario possibly cause a nightmare or two for the marketing gurus on Madison Ave.?
First and foremost, MLB has it right. The all-star game means something. The reward for winning is very important. If the American League wins, then the World Series begins in an AL city. Ditto for the NL team. The Super Bowl is only one game that this is not possible but what if another system was in place?
Let’s say whatever conference loses the Pro Bowl the teams in that conference, starting with the playoff qualifying franchises, would have to play the toughest schedule the following season. A format such as that would motivate the owners, coaches and players to get out there and “bust a few grapes” in order to win.
Also hold the game after the Super Bowl as before so the athletes chosen to compete could have a brief respite to heal up because as we all know football is a violent game and bodies need to heal because unlike baseball, basketball or hockey, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to play an NFL game on Monday and play another contest on Tuesday.
Now let’s get to the game itself. The AFC beat the NFC, 41-34. If you watched the game, you more than likely did not need a sleep aid that night. If the game was still played in Honolulu, before, during or after the game you would not be bored, trust me. What happens in Honolulu stays in Honolulu! The contest was a rainy, drizzly sort of affair that ended up being not too much more than OTAs (organized team activities) or at best, a spirited mini-camp.
NFC linebacker Brian Orakpo said, “Everybody came out here trying not to get hurt and give the fans a good show.” Well Brian, as far as defenses representing the AFC and the NFC were concerned, it was not by any stretch of the imagination a “good show.”
Thirty-four players chosen missed the game because of injury or because they were getting ready for Super Bowl XLIV.
I remember the sunsets on Oahu and Waikiki and the food.
The Pro Bowl needs a little re-tooling but not a complete overhaul. Maybe Hawaii was a bit too far to travel for some folks to observe a game that didn’t end up with a Lombardi, but for us guys in the trenches, the Pro Bowl in Hawaii is the Super Bowl.
Instead of scrambling to get media to cover the Pro Bowl, maybe the NFL should whisper in the ears of the news organizations that if they don’t cover the Pro Bowl after the season then the distinct possibility might exist that unless the team in their market advances to the Super Bowl, the following year that organization may very well be denied credentials to cover the big game. As far as flights to Honolulu being booked the following year, book ’em, Dano.
What the NFL All Star game needs is not a new location. It needs a new meaning.
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