A big reason why NFL fans love to watch professional football is that it’s a rare chance to witness sports competition at the highest of levels.
With only sixteen games in the regular season to prove a team’s worth, every matchup becomes a test of strength, strategy and survival on the gridiron until the final seconds tick off the clock and there’s just a single bruised and bloody winner left standing on the field of play.
And then there’s the Pro Bowl.
Why is the Pro Bowl not considered to be ‘real’ football?
You mean, why is the Pro Bowl basically considered pro football’s wimpy cousin?
There are lots of answers to that question – here are three of them.
The outcome of the Pro Bowl means nothing important, and players play differently, less on the edge, knowing that.
Except for the pride of winning, a little bit of cash and a few contract bonuses met, for most players, especially the veterans, a win does nothing exceptional to advance their team, their career or their bank account.
These are professionals – they need (and deserve) more than just pride as motivation to excel.
Pro Bowl players don’t want to get injured in a meaningless game and they play more carefully with that in mind.
Imagine being an elite, millionaire athlete and having your career end because you broke your leg playing in what’s essentially a high-level pickup game.
That’s definitely going to affect the way you play (or if you even want to) and safe “pillow fight” football isn’t nearly as fun to watch.
Pro Bowl selections favor larger market team because fans, who get 1/3 of the vote for Pro Bowl Players, often vote for their teams, not individual players.
As a result, on occasion larger market teams will have an unfair number of their players represented on the Pro Bowl roster.
Some say the player-voting portion of the Pro Bowl selection is equally as skewed due to “politics, incumbency and personal vendettas” involved, so bottom line there’s debate as to whether the truly best players all do get selected.
So remind me - why should I even watch the Pro Bowl?
Great question – with all the grumbling about it being sub-par football, some fans might be tempted to skip the Pro Bowl event altogether, but there are plenty of reasons not to do that.
Here are five of them:
1. It’s an All Star game, so the stars will shine
A big reason to tune in Pro Bowl weekend is to see all of the NFL greats, past and present, together in one setting.
Getting the chance to watch the players named on those Pro Bowl rosters play football together is alone enough to tune in, but then add all of the legendary NFL guest appearances and drop-ins that happen every year and it becomes a fun-to-see who’s who of the pro football world.
And it’s always a kick to watch how the best players in their positions can still play so well with each other despite being given such short notice and having to work with basic game plans.
2. Watch your homeboys in the national spotlight
Whichever team you root for (unless it’s the Oakland Raiders), there’s at least a player or two or more on the Pro Bowl roster, so tune in to see how they do in the national spotlight.
Having the words ‘Pro Bowler’ added to a player’s name elevates them to the next level forever, and getting a chance to see that happen to your NFL homeboys is worth the watch.
Nothing more exciting than seeing Pro Bowl players with your team’s colors on their helmet emerge from a swarm of enemy logos.
And nothing better than to get AFC or NFC bragging rights (“See? I told you they’re better!”) until the end of next season.
3. Pro Bowls are great games to bet the underdog
If you’re a football gambler, consider this: if the Pro Bowl is just an exhibition game and the players’ motivation is suspect, who do you think this favors?
The underdog in this case, or at least that’s how history has shown it.
In the past 14 Pro Bowls, the underdog has won it nine times, covering 6.37 points per game, and in 2019 the underdog is the AFC.
4. Four words: Pro Bowl Skills Showdown
This part of Pro Bowl weekend, the Skills Showdown, is a hoot – watching your favorite athletes show off their impossible speed, accuracy and competitiveness.
Here are the five competitions in 2019:
- 40 Yard Splash, a fire bucket brigade that ends with football tosses at a target that triggers a dunk tank.
- Gridiron Gauntlet, a head-to-head relay race to highlight skills, including something called the ‘fumble scramble.’
- Best Hands, a timed relay race between two wide receiver-quarterback duos from each conference.
- Precision Passing, a one-minute accuracy competition (in other words, a target hitting contest) between each conference's two quarterbacks and one captain-appointed non-quarterback.
- Epic Pro Bowl Dodgeball, a best of three series of a classic game of dodgeball with every member of each team participating, and of course - last guy standing wins.
The Pro Bowl Skills Showdown takes place on Thursday, January 24, at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN and Disney XD.
5. It’s the second-to-last time you’ll see pro football until next season
As the saying goes – beggars can’t be choosers, and in the final weeks of January, football fans are indeed the beggars.
There are just two more weeks left in the 2018-19 NFL season, so you’ll want to tune into Pro Bowl weekend because you’ll get to see football one more time before it ends for months.
Just ignore the ugly downsides of the half-hearted football being played and enjoy the fact that the uniforms, the athletes, the coverage, are all there for one final time before the Big Game.
After all - any football is better than no football, every time.
What’s the one reason not to watch the 2019 Pro Bowl?
As a protest.
Some Saints fans are boycotting the rest of postseason football to protest the ref’s ridiculous and game losing No-Call in the Saints/Rams Conference Championship.
[Note: You can read all about that No-Call in the recent WSN article: Did Refs’ Big No-Call Cost New Orleans Saints the Super Bowl?]
Some disgruntled New Orleans fans have even rented billboards around the Atlanta area that say, “Saints got robbed,” “NFL bleaux it” and “They reffed up.”
Join them if you’re equally fed up with the ridiculously poor refereeing that’s been going on all NFL season and affecting the outcome of more than a few football games.
If enough people protest, maybe it forces NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to make a move in the right direction.
Chances are, though, most football fans will tune in to the Pro Bowl because, after all, it’s football, and in less than two weeks there will be no more of it until August.
And any football is better than no football, every time.