By Peter Schwartz
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I’m not breaking any news here, but let’s be honest — the Pro Bowl stinks!
It’s the worst of all the All-Star games in professional sports. It doesn’t resemble a true NFL game, many players don’t even want to go and the players from the Super Bowl teams are ineligible.
The NFL Network can try to pump up the Pro Bowl draft all they want, but nobody is excited about the game other than the players and their families because they get a free trip to Hawaii. Not even Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders playing fantasy football can change the public perception of the Pro Bowl.
But I think I can!
I have a plan to save the Pro Bowl, even though the popular opinion is to do away with it. I think that the best players in the league deserve to be recognized as Pro Bowlers and NFL fans deserve to see the league’s best on the field the week before the Super Bowl.
So how do we fix it?
It’s very simple. Since many people refer to the Pro Bowl as nothing more than a flag-football game, let’s just make it a flag-football game. Let’s turn the Pro Bowl into the NFL Pro Bowl Flag-Football Celebration.
Under my plan, the Pro Bowl would be played in the Super Bowl stadium the week before the big game. The game gives the league and host committee one more event that can get fans without Super Bowl tickets involved in the week-long festivities.
And these tickets would clearly be family-affordable. Since the stadium will already be set up for the Super Bowl, it would give fans a chance to see what it will look like. The game can be used as a fundraiser with proceeds going to a local or NFL charity, or both. You could even have each team play for a charity, with the winning team getting the bigger share.
I would go back to the AFC-NFC format with the starting lineups determined by a combination of fan balloting and a Pro Bowl committee. That committee would pick the reserves and the alternate players.
Like I said, this would be a flag-football game so that the players can have some fun with it and not worry about getting criticized for not making a tackle. I would also go as far as to steal something from baseball’s All-Star week by adding some familiar names to the game.
Each team would have five celebrities and five former players on its roster, with as many as possible having ties to the host city. Keeping in mind that this is meant to be a fun event, the coaches should also have ties to the host city. For example, if the format was to be used this year in New York/New Jersey, you could have Joe Namath coaching the AFC and Bill Parcells coaching the NFC.
The game would be a part of a day-long celebration of football, the host city and the Super Bowl. Before the game, you could have an NFL Experience/Super Bowl Boulevard type of event for the fans at the stadium. There would be exhibits, interactive games and autograph sessions with all of the Pro Bowlers and the celebrities.
I think that you could also add a big youth-football celebration with local pee-wee teams coming to the game and maybe a few select few getting invited to play a game on the field.
You could even try to time the event so as to welcome the two Super Bowl teams to the stadium after they arrive in town that day.
Not everyone has the money to buy a Super Bowl ticket, even if you can get it at face value. I, for one, would love to take my family to the Super Bowl, but it’s just not happening. An event like the Pro Bowl would be another opportunity for all football fans to take part in Super Bowl week.
I think this is a win-win for everyone.
The players still get recognized for their season-long efforts, the host city gets an extra event as part of Super Bowl week and the fans get to see current stars, former stars and celebrities while also celebrating the great game of football.
And we can all be spared of watching the awful game that we have now.
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