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Sports take: Pro Bowl irrelevant for football fans, NFL

Jan. 27, 2010

"How sad is it that there is only one football game left?" one SportsCenter anchor lamented on Monday night.

As with all live broadcasts, he had no time to recant his blunder. His co-anchor, determined to stop the mistake from going unnoticed, pounced.

"Wait! There's two! You're forgetting the Pro Bowl."

I would have customarily chuckled at the nationally televised error, except that upon further review, the first anchor was essentially right. After moving the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl, the NFL managed to make the former even more irrelevant.

The Pro Bowl already consisted of jazzercise with pads and helmets that were hardly necessary. Players brought family and friends on a weeklong party, which culminated in a ballroom dance watched by 50,000 people in Aloha Stadium.

Don't get me wrong; I am happy for the players who receive selections. If somebody subjects himself to 17 weeks of mental and physical punishment, he should enjoy a touch football game in paradise at least once in his career.

It is not fair to expect said player to give the same effort with his beat-up body as he did for the regular season. To do what people pay to see in the NFL requires a wanton disregard for bodily health, making it impossible to perform at the highest level without risking injury.

So why the NFL tries to promote the Pro Bowl's storylines as if it were a real, competitive game stumps me. Rules prohibiting blitzing, nickel or dime packages and allowing intentional grounding further reduce the game's legitimacy.

Regardless of the lack of contact, at least fans could usually expect to see the league's marquee players on the field.

That no longer happens when the Pro Bowl is played before the Super Bowl.

This year Peyton Manning and Drew Brees highlight the list of absentees, and rarely, if ever does a team get to the Super Bowl without several of the league's premier players. That means that in each year of the Pro Bowl being before Super Sunday, at least a few of the best players will miss the "all-star" game due to more important engagements.

The Pro Bowl already came minus most of the hard hits; taking away the great players leaves me with no reason to tune in.

Of course, Pro Bowl enthusiasts simply say, "If you don't like it, don't watch it."

Fine, I won't watch it. But the problem still exists.

Because the Pro Bowl makes a mockery of football, the NFL should maintain the integrity of the game by keeping it as it was and stop trying to integrate it into the season.

Like all sports, the NFL bases its livelihood on competition, players vying to defeat their opponents to be crowned the best.

Last year the cameras caught Pro Bowlers breaking the pregame huddle with the cry, "45!"

Each player on the winning team received $45,000. Despite million-dollar salaries, this was the best motivation they could find to "fight" for a win.

Like the former Pro Bowl's home in Honolulu, the game itself has been a laid-back event far from reality. Nobody tries, but the Hawaiians and tourists watching don't care.

Who can complain on an 80-degree day with partly cloudy skies?

Chris Derrett is a sophomore journalism major from Katy and a sports writer for the Lariat.