While I was searching about what time the Pro Bowl was on February 2nd, I stumbled upon an article by Divya Parmar titled "Why The Pro Bowl Sucks… and How It Can Be Fixed". The article was passionate and intriguing. The issues presented were relevant to today and I nearly agreed with every point within the article. But, what surprised me the most was when the article was written: February of 2010. Twelve years have passed since Parmar wrote that article, yet the same problems continue to plague the Pro Bowl for years and years to come. Roger Goodell was in his fourth year of being the commissioner In 2010. Arian Foster led the NFL in rush yards, Philip Rivers led the league in passing yards, and Devin Hester led in return yards and touchdowns - while Ed Reed led in interceptions. In short, that was a while ago.
So, why does the Pro Bowl not get the recognition as much as any other All-Star game? The idea of an All-Star game exists in every major sports league, with a weekend of activities surrounding it to highlight the best players in the league. In my opinion, the best of which is the revamped NBA All-Star weekend. With the Pro Bowl, the game happens at the end of the season, a week before the Super Bowl. The NBA All-Star Game occurs at about the season's halfway point when the playoff race is beginning to heat up. The opposite can be said about the Pro Bowl - as both players and fans see the event as relevant. The Pro Bowl feels like filler for the week before the Super Bowl, without arguably the best players competing because of the Super Bowl.
Every player who competes in the Pro Bowl's season has already ended, some three weeks before the game and some only a week. Technically, no player wants to go to the Pro Bowl – going to the Pro Bowl signifies that your team was not good enough to make the Super Bowl. It was heavily apparent with players like Patrick Mahomes and Deebo Samuel, who lost in their respective conference championship games. Mahomes looked overall disgruntled and had the look of a player who didn't want to be there. Samuel put in a minimal amount of effort and looked to just have fun over try – yet, that was not a problem that only occurred with those two specific players.
As a Browns fan, it made me incredibly happy to see Myles Garrett have a pick-six during the Pro Bowl. What made me extremely infuriated is that he took two steps and didn't push into the line at all, basically standing up still and letting the play happen, getting lucky that the ball was tipped by TJ Watt and fell like a feather into his arms. The effort is simply not there. Players are playing two-hand touch tackle football, slowing down before contact and overall putting in 50% effort. I completely and fully understand why the players don't put in the same amount of effort, their season is over and they don't want to get injured. But, from a fan's perspective, what is the incentive to actually watch the game? Nevertheless, care?
What the NBA All-Star did recently to have players care about the game was to incentivize players to put in efforts through donations to charity. The end to the 2020 NBA All-Star Game was one of the most exciting finishes to a sports game that I have ever watched because the players wanted to win so badly for their charity. NBA All-Star Games tend not to have a lot of flare defensively, but every player puts in 110% effort offensively and defensively. If the Pro Bowl can find a way to motivate players to give their all, the game will be overall more watchable.
But, for the moment, the game does not represent the best qualities of professional football.
In 2010, Parmar said, "The Pro Bowl is a football game without intensity, the whole reason we love football in the first place. We love the passion, the intensity, the big hits. We love getting fired up over competition." The same still applies to today. Yet, the Pro Bowl exemplifies none of that.
When I loaded Twitter after the most recent installment of the Pro Bowl, the two most prominent "highlights" from the game were Mac Jones hitting the griddy and Micah Parsons making a routine form tackle. Those "highlights" say more about the game than any score or any individual play. Mac Jones kept running after he was two-hand touched down all the way to the end zone. The play didn't go for more than a few yards, but the clip was all over social media. Micah Parsons' tackle was, from what I saw, the only actual hard hit of the game, and that was enough to warrant an onslaught of social media posts.
In short, the Pro Bowl needs a change. The game itself is a stagnant climax of what is supposed to be a weekend of celebration. The Pro Bowl itself is the worst part of Pro Bowl weekend, with non-football-related events like dodgeball being the most exciting part. There is no feasible way the Pro Bowl could be held mid-season or after the Super Bowl, but that plays to its own detriment. The Pro Bowl lacks any sort of motivation for the players other to have fun. They have already proven themselves to the fans and media to get to that position in the first place.
The most feasible solution in my mind is to have the Pro Bowl played before the first preseason game, coinciding with the Hall of Fame Game or around that time. Have the best players from last season showcase themselves on a national stage before the season starts and generate interest in the NFL before the season begins. It's a way for the players to have more motivation (to want to hit someone) and it could be a way to generate revenue for the league before the season starts.
The Pro Bowl means very little for the average fan in terms of an event. Fans don't get to see players at their best nor even try and the overall playstyle doesn't feel like football. The players care significantly more about All-Pro nominations than Pro Bowls. A desperately needed revamp, or the Pro Bowl will continue to be an obsolete filler event the week before the Super Bowl.