NFL Pro Bowl Is Overdue For Cancellation

NFL Pro Bowl Is Overdue For Cancellation

Seriously, why do people still watch the NFL Pro Bowl?


January 27, 2019, saw the 68th edition of the NFL Pro Bowl. And, as it happens every year, the return of the Pro Bowl begs the question: why do we still have a Pro Bowl game?

For starters, the Pro Bowl does not attract many viewers, especially not when compared to regular season games or the Super Bowl. In 2018, the average regular season game attracted 15.8 million viewers, according to ESPN, which rose five percent from the year before. The Pro Bowl that year saw 8.6 million viewers, according to Sports Media Watch. The 2019 Pro Bowl saw a peak of 8.9 million viewers, according to Yahoo Sports. Comparatively, Super Bowl 52 in 2018 saw 103.4 million viewers--which even that was low. Although the Pro Bowl viewership holds steady with the viewership of other all-star games, it doesn't hold par with the NFL's regular viewership.

In 2019, the winning team in the Pro Bowl earned a paycheck of $70,000 per player, and the losing team walked away with a paycheck of 35 grand. In comparison, Super Bowl 52 winners, the Philadelphia Eagles took home $112,000 each, just from the Super Bowl alone--$191,000 for the entire postseason. The New England Patriots, who lost, took home $56,000 for the Super Bowl, $135,000 for the entire postseason, according to CNBC.

It makes sense that the teams in the Super Bowl make more money than the players in the Pro Bowl, as there's a lot more viewership. But the pay difference isn't as drastic as the viewership. I mean, for example, why do the losers of the Super Bowl make less in that one super important game than the winners of the Pro Bowl, where the NFL sees its lowest viewership? Sure, the Pro Bowl is supposed to be the "best of the best" players, but the two teams in the Super Bowl are supposedly the two best teams in the league, so why don't the losers get paid more than the winners of the Pro Bowl?

A good number of the best players in the NFL choose not to play in the Pro Bowl because of the fear of injury, or just a lack of interest. For the 2019 Pro Bowl, Kanas City Chief's tight end Travis Kelce, Dallas Cowboys' tackle Tyron Smith, Baltimore Ravens' defensive tackle Geno Atkins, Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers, among other players, opted out of participating in the Pro Bowl. That fear of injury also typically drives a lack-luster effort from the players.

The 2012 Pro Bowl saw Associated Press calling out players for "playing at half-speed and ready to extend their Hawaiian vacation" and "hitting each other as though they were having a pillow fight." The fear of injury was seen in the 2019 Pro Bowl, when two wide receivers, Pittsburgh Steelers' JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Los Angeles Chargers' Keenan Allen, both suffered knee injuries. At the same time, the Pro Bowl saw three running backs playing defense and a wide receiver catch an interception.

Even with those fiascoes, the fans who do tune in to the Pro Bowl often just mock it and take to social media to express their frustration with how meaningless the Pro Bowl really is. One fan tweeted that "there's no possible way to make no stakes football interesting. Football's entire allure revolves around the mythology of these gladiators putting their bodies on the line in their quest for glory. If that's removed, football just isn't appealing."

And most fans agree with that fan. Football without any stakes whatsoever holds no entertainment value to Americans. If there's nothing to compete for, why is there a competition at all?

However, the Pro Bowl will never end, not so long as it receives as many views as it does. Even though the majority of its viewership comes from people criticizing the game, to the NFL, it's still viewership. It's still making them some amount of money. So if we ever want the Pro Bowl to end as it is today--a meaningless, nothing at stake football game--we really need to stop watching it all together. Seriously. Just don't watch the game. It's that simple.

Maybe then the NFL will actually listen to the complaints of the viewers in full.

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.

I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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