During my teenage years, I was a big fan of the NBA. I haven't followed the league nearly as closely in recent years for a couple of reasons, largely because a) I don't much care for what the professional game has turned into and prefer the flow of the college game instead, and b) my favorite team (the Timberwolves) has been so awful for so long that it's hard to really get excited about watching NBA action on a regular basis.
But there's one thing that the NBA, more so than any of the other major sports, gets right above all of the others, and that's All-Star Weekend. Not the actual game, mind you. . .the only actual All-Star game that doesn't turn into a complete joke, in my opinion, is the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, because it doesn't degenerate into a defense-optional video game like the other three games do. But the NBA turns All-Star Weekend into a real event, with the celebrity game, the skills competition, the three-point shootout, and most notably the dunk contest. Granted, I don't like what the dunk contest has turned into, either. Let me put on my old codger hat here for a minute. . .in my day, you got one opportunity to make the dunk, and if you missed it, you missed it. There wasn't any of this "let's take 18 shots at it and see if we can get it down" stuff like we've gotten in recent years.
But anyway. . .the NFL Pro Bowl is probably the biggest joke of any of the professional All-Star games. Nobody wants to play in the game, and more often than not look for excuses to get out of things. But what the NBA does with their All-Star festivities has led me to wonder. . .could the NFL do something similar? Lord knows people would watch it because, hey, it's the NFL. (Witness the ratings for the Pro Bowl being up 40% from last season if you want any proof of that.)
So, if the NFL did decide to do this sort of thing, what sort of events could they put into it to make it worthwhile? Well, I've got a few suggestions.
The Quarterback Challenge - The NFL hasn't done the quarterback challenge since 2007, but things like this used to be a staple of shows like Wide World of Sports and those sorts of things. Quarterback accuracy, arm strength, and all sorts of other things took place during these competitions, and they were generally won by guys that you wouldn't think would be up in the rankings. . .like the last one being one by Josh McCown. Now, rather than doing something like this in front of. . .well, nobody. . .and saving it for March or April or whenever, have it during Pro Bowl weekend in front of a stadium full of fans.
Long-Distance Shootout - Just like the NBA. . .except we're letting the placekickers see how far out they can make field goals from. You could do various things with this, too. . .change the wind speed/direction (lord knows you could probably get Hollywood involved in something like this), add a few rushers, or narrow the goal posts, for example.
Fastest Man Competition - Another thing that used to be an off-season staple, and it would be simple to do. . .get yourself a field of the 8 fastest guys in the league, let them compete in a bracket-style tournament, and declare one the fastest man in the NFL. Darrell Green used to win these things all the time. . .tell me you wouldn't want to see (for example) Devin Hester and Chris Johnson in a one-on-one race for the title of the NFL's fastest man. There would be bragging rights involved. . .NFL players love them some bragging rights.
Touchdown Dance-Off - Pretty self-explanatory. Let the league's best exhibitionists. . .dance exhibitionists, people (get your minds out of the gutter). . .put their dancing skills to the test to determine who has the best touchdown celebration moves in the NFL. For extra fun, put in a special "fat guy" category for the offensive and defensive linemen to get involved. . .because, hey, touchdown dances are funny, but fat guy touchdown dances are hilarious.
What do you folks think? Do you have any suggestions for what the NFL could do as part of a "Pro Bowl Weekend" celebration similar to what the NBA does?