Despite the NFL’s recent attempts to make the game more interesting in recent years, the Pro Bowl is plain out boring. It is viewed as a joke by most fans, even the majority of players involved. Many choose not to attend and start offseason training, or just take some time off from the game in general and spend it with their families. The league has struggled to maintain interest in this game ever since it reached its peak of 13.4 million viewers in 2011. This very well may lead back to the amount of rule changes the NFL implements for the Pro Bowl in order to reduce injury. Rules such as no blitzing, no kickoffs or attempting to block kicks, and limited contact for tackles all do make the game safer, but at the same time incredibly difficult to watch.
There simply isn’t any logical reason for the players to risk injury for a game that is basically meaningless to them. The reward for being a part of the winning team during the 2020 Pro Bowl is $70,000; while the losing team will get $35,000 each. Although the NFL has been increasing the cash reward every year, they would need to make it even higher for many players to take it seriously. A common misconception among fans is that most NFL players make millions of dollars more than they need, so they wouldn’t be bothered by a few thousand for one game. However, that is not the case with the vast majority of players in the NFL. Obviously, veteran players that have been around the league for a long time make tens of millions of dollars. But the ones playing on rookie contracts, or playing at a position that doesn’t have a high market value could use an extra paycheck. These players have to stretch out their salary for the rest of their lives, while their career could be cut short at any given moment.
The NFL has been shifting the focus in recent years to the skills competitions held during the Pro Bowl week. These seem to be a hit and well liked among both fans and players. The NFL should get rid of the Pro Bowl game and have a weekend of these skills competitions, increasing the cash rewards and the amount of events held. In the age of social media, it is easy to show the highlights of each event and give it publicity. This would be a good chance for players to show off their unique skills that they may not have been able to do during the season. If the NFL cannot find a solution to fixing the actual Pro Bowl game itself, they should go the route of a skills challenge weekend.
Sources: NFL Postseason Media Guide (nfl.com), Number of viewers of the NFL Pro Bowl in the United States from 2000 to 2019 (Statista.com)
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