CHEERLEADERS! WOOOO!!!! - Kent Nishimura
Let's face it, the game itself is dumb. So what should be done about it?
In lieu of real football this weekend, either professional or collegiate, we have what we call "the Pro Bowl". Now don't get me wrong. I love hearing about Vikings players getting selected to go, although if I'm being 100% honest here, it does feel ever so slightly cheapened when someone ends up getting to go as an alternate. This year we're rocking 6 Vikings: Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Jared Allen, Blair Walsh, Chad Greenway, and Kyle Rudolph. (By the way, in case you hadn't heard, apparently Walsh brought his long snapper and holder- Cullen Loeffler and Chris Kluwe- with him to Hawaii. That's freaking awesome of him.)
And while it's great to hear about particular Vikings being honored, there is something to be said about the quality of said game itself. I'm not entirely sure I've watched an entire cumulative Pro Bowl in my life. Maybe 4 or 5 times I've started, maybe 2 or 3 times I actually tried to continue, and every time without fail I just end up flipping the channel or just outright doing something else. And I love the game of football, in any format: if I am actively choosing not to watch the only game possibly available in an entire weekend, there's something very wrong with that game.
And I'm obviously far from alone in this. I can't actually think of ever hearing someone say they enjoyed watching a particular Pro Bowl. Last year was such a joke that even Rodger Goodell suggested afterwards that the NFL might just cancel the entire fiasco. Now whether that is a subtle threat to get players to play harder, or an actual idea he's considering, it's notable that Pro Bowl QB Peyton Manning apparently got the message loud and clear. Earlier this week, he exhorted his fellow AFC Pro Bowl teammates to play as if it were a real game (I doubt he used those words) so that the entire thing wouldn't end up being removed.
I will admit, the idea of losing the Pro Bowl altogether does suck a little bit, because it removes an opportunity for players to receive individual recognition and a major honor. Now, yes, the Pro Bowl voting itself leaves something to be desired (*cough*JeffSaturdayInsteadOfJohnSullivan*cough*), with certain positions generally not receiving adequate attention/ research prior to actual voting, and other players regardless of position getting in simply based on reputation rather than their actual performance that year. That said, overall I would still like to see the honor continue.
So what should we do? We have, to me, three options. Option the first would be simply get rid of the actual game but keep the voting and selection process. This would of course remove ‘alternates' because, well, if there's no actual game being played then there's no reason the first selection wouldn't retain that spot. But I'm just fine with that.
Option the second is to keep the game and try and motivate players to put more effort in. Now I haven't a clue how you do that, especially considering I actually do get why the games suck. Look, if I'm a football player who's career rests on my health, I'm going to be a helluva lot more cautious in a game with absolutely no implications whatsoever. Why risk blowing an ACL in the Pro Bowl? It makes perfect sense. So perhaps there's really no way to ensure everyone out there is actually going to play with full effort, save for a handful who are simply wired that way (your Petersons, Mannings, etc.), players who only have "on" and "off" switches with no middle ground.
The third option that I brought up on Twitter the other day is something along the lines of an "All Star Challenge". You select players of each position and, rather than actually play a game, just have them perform certain tasks associated with that position to see who's the best at what. For example, running backs could do races, quarterbacks could see who throws the ball the furthest, etc. etc. (I will admit I'm not entirely sure what some positions could do, but I'm sure there's something for everyone.) This is an idea that gets floated around every year around this time, and it's my personal favorite. Players in this situation won't have any additional risk of injury, and considering the pride on the line, you can bet that everyone's going to put maximum effort into the tasks at hand. Plus, it would also retain the ‘alternates' system, considering players named as starters who are injured or are playing in the Super Bowl will obviously not be able to compete. Let's just make sure, however, that it doesn't become something where guys are dunking over cars (*cough*NBA*cough*).
What say you, fellow Viking fandom? Which of the above three scenarios do you support to reform the Pro Bowl, or is there another idea I haven't thought of/ heard?