Did you catch the big football game on Sunday? There were some amazing plays and even a great 4th quarter comeback. In case you’re confused, I’m referring to the NFL Pro Bowl, which due to the timing of the event and the lack of participation by many players, is generally the least-relevant all-star game of the four major U.S. leagues (yes, I’d even put the NHL All-Star Game ahead of it). Because of the the NFL’s schedule structure and the risk of injury, the league cannot have a mid-season exhibition like the other sports. However, the NFL did decide to make some changes for next year, moving the game up to the off-week before the Super Bowl and playing the game at the same location as the Super Bowl.
I’ve heard many mixed opinions about this change. The biggest downside is that any Pro Bowl players from two Super Bowl teams (and theoretically there should be several) would not be able to participate. But considering how many players voluntarily decide not to play in this game anyway, I don’t see this as a big loss. Its clearly a negative for Aloha Stadium in Hawaii, but the contract with the NFL had expired, and the league is still going to give them a chance to get the game back in the future. Finally, the players (and the wealthier fans) tend to enjoy a trip to Hawaii. While next year’s Super Bowl is in Miami, future games will not be in such a tropical location, which could actually hurt game attendance by players and fans.
On the positive side, making the game an officialpart of Super Bowl Week will create more public interest and media exposure, which in turn will boost the ratings. The Super Bowl is such an exciting climax to the season, that anything occurring after it does not get any attention. This change also creates another exciting event for people in town that week, which is more important now considering the number of events that did not happen this year because of the down economy. Finally, the Pro Bowl will be able to connect with the NFL Experience, which is one of the biggest attractions of Super Bowl week. One of the reasons that the NBA All-Star Game is such a successful event is the All-Star Jam Session that takes place leading up to the game. The Pro Bowl does not have that same type of fanfare in Hawaii, but in conjunction with the Super Bowl, there will be plenty of hoopla to help create a more exciting environment.
I think this decision will prove to be a good one by the NFL, and even if its not, I give them a lot of credit for acknowledging the current problems and trying something different.