The Pro Bowl is upon us, with its festivities, Hawaiian beauty, leis, superstars, their replacements, and a new Fantasy Football inspired draft. Sadly, the San Francisco 49ers players were able to play in the game. Only one, however, decided to show up: replacement Pro-Bowler Eric Reid.
Reid deserves to play in this game. He was underrated all season as he turned in an excellent campaign as an arguable improvement over Dashon Goldson at safety. He also was the only 49er to make the game that has not played in it before. This is one of the problems with the Pro Bowl: after one or two visits it loses its luster. Other issues stem from the nature of the sport itself. Unlike baseball or basketball, an All-Star game mid-season is impossible with the high potential for injuries. Thus, the whole concept of “All-Star Week” will never transfer to the NFL. The Pro Bowl is also overshadowed by the Super Bowl a week later (or earlier, as it used to be). The All-Star Games in other sports are the focal point for about a week, as the regular season takes a hiatus and not much else is going on.
About this draft. It makes absolutely no sense. The whole point is to have players play harder and take it somewhat seriously. Not only does removing kickoffs take away one of the most exciting–albeit dangerous–components of the game, but this draft potentially pits players against teammates. That, in and of itself, would be enough for players to play less hard. The NFL should take this out next season.
So should the NFL cancel the Pro Bowl? Perhaps, but personally I still like it. I just happen to like it more after the Super Bowl, as it becomes the last bit of football I will be able to see for eight months–and thus something I want to watch a whole lot more than the week before a Super Bowl. The NFL has some work to do to improve this game, and it may not be possible, but I hope, at least for the sake of player acknowledgment, it remains in some for or other.