The numbers are in and the Pro Bowl ratings were strong — 12.3 million people watched — the most since 2000. Those were particularly strong considering the game was on ESPN instead of NBC, as it was last year. All along I thought the idea to move the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl was a good one, for many reasons. The primary reason is one expressed by me and shared by many of my listeners on Sporting News Radio, and it is that most sports fans are still in “football mode,” so it’s best to give us all the NFL action we can handle while interest level is up. I actually think they should play it on a Thursday night, a few days before the actual Super Bowl. Tell me that wouldn’t be a good appetizer for the fans.
Even with the interest and ratings for the Pro Bowl being elevated, some changes still should be made. As Colts President Bill Polian most vehemently expressed, the teams participating in the Super Bowl shouldn’t be forced to have their players show up to the game and fragment the team’s traveling plans. Though some media members downplay the importance of an entire team traveling together, it is a big deal to have the entire team make its trip to the Super Bowl together. For one, this rubs it in for players who didn’t make the Pro Bowl when they see teammates getting separate treatment. Secondly, it breaks up routines established during the season that teams don’t want altered. Lastly, the biggest leaders of teams aren’t around to help set the tone for their teammates. If you don’t think that’s important, recall that the Giants dressed in all black for business when they traveled to Glendale before beating the Patriots.
Another change the NFL should make regarding the Pro Bowl is noting a difference between players voted onto the original squad and those who made it as alternates. Often times the alternates were very deserving players (see the NFC wide receiver alternates), but sometimes guys like David Garrard and Vince Young make it onto the squad and then get to put “Pro Bowl quarterback” on their resume when they really didn’t play at a Pro Bowl level this year. When these guys retire and we’re evaluating their credentials for the Hall of Fame and whatnot, it should be important to distinguish that guys like VY and Garrard made it only because Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Carson Palmer all were either unavailable or injured, and turned down the offer. Look at that list and tell me those guys don’t deserve asterisks.
Finally, don’t complain about the level of competition for the game; you’ll never get guys to put their health and bodies on the line for a meaningless game unless you pay them tons of money. Even then I wouldn’t bet on it.Google+