The NFL’s annual popularity contest, oh wait sorry, their “All-Star Game” has been widely regarded as a yearly flop for decades now and quickly devolves into a total waste of time for players and fans alike after the first kickoff. Despite Roger Goodell’s deplorable attempts to spice it up, nothing has yet to work in the creation of a nationally beloved All-Star game a la the NBA. Nobody wants to watch a bunch of grown men in bright colored uniforms lazily walk around and throw a football back and forth.
However, this is not to say the Pro Bowl is not an enjoyable experience for the players. The festivities leading up to along with the fan interaction is what some of these players play for. It’s a wonderful time for bitter rivals to come together and play a friendly game of catch with a little boy or girl wearing their replica jerseys. Even though fans don’t enjoy a lazy skills competition doesn’t mean that the Pro Bowl should just be wiped from existence entirely.
The key problem with All-Star games in all of sports has always been the injury concern. No athlete wants to lose a season of serious play due to an injury sustained in a meaningless showcase. The NHL has offered a hearty incentive for that risk with the million dollar prize and basketball is a sport that naturally fits the mold of an All-Star game – a casual, backyard game that has a very low risk of injury if not played too seriously. Not to mention the sport of basketball in of itself is really simplistic and can be used for a myriad of fun little competitions and gimmicks like a dunk contest or three-point contest.
However, with football leading the charge in the brutal sports department and players wisely avoiding taking fellow players heads off (unless you’re Sean Taylor), it leaves the sport as a shell of its former self. Football is a characteristically violent sport and when players don’t tackle and linemen don’t block, you’re left with, well, the Pro Bowl.
So listen up, Roger Goodell, I’m laying out the blueprint of how to fix your beloved All-Star game in three simple categories-little tweaks and cutesy additions, completely revamping the format and ideas that probably aren’t possible but you have the money for it so those are the ones I expect the most out of.
Yeah, I know, I’m ripping this one right out of the MLB’s players weekend but it’s a cute fan service that players would really enjoy. Maybe have a fan vote for nicknames to avoid everyone just doing their initials or something too campy but the Pro Bowl should be founded in fun and what could be more fun than giving every player a nickname who deserves one?
The NFL isn’t as generous with nicknames as the NBA and even fewer players get legitimately cool aliases. For every Beast Mode and Sweetness, there’s too many Touchdown Toms and Johnny Footballs. Obviously, not every nickname will stick, but giving the power to the people to come up with great nicknames for players would make the Pro Bowl experience that much more enjoyable.
Plus imagine the merchandise you could sell with this, Roger.
Custom Cleats for Every Player
With the restrictive rules regarding uniforms and speaking your mind in press conferences or on social media, players have begun to really express themselves in the shoe game. Whether it be political views, for a charity or just because the cleat represents them, some players use them more for making a statement than actually functioning as a cleat.
I know you hate letting players voice themselves and actually, get this, be individuals but the Pro Bowl is a time of freedom and letting the players be themselves so giving the players the opportunity for slick custom cleats is a perfect outlet
Entirely New Formats
Make it a flag football tournament
No matter how you slice it or dice it, the injury concern is what convinces players to put in as little effort as possible to avoid losing precious time. So how do we circumvent the violent side of football?
Make it a 7 on 7 flag football game. By making the Pro Bowl a flag football game and adding a small prize of about a million dollars for the winning team would be more than enough for players to actually play.
On top of that, any football player can attest to the fact that pads restrict a lot of motion and the gaudy amounts of equipment sap a lot of speed and athleticism. With players now in shorts and a tight no sleeve shirt or something close to that, we get to witness truly how talented these athletes are. This is the same pitch that has the American Flag Football League gaining traction and to watch some of the greatest athletes in the country be let out of their cages is exactly what the NFL needs in an All-Star game.
And how about we not only make the Pro Bowl a flag game but let’s make this a full-blown tournament between the eight divisions. Why? The NFL wants a show, a national event for fans to huddle around their TVs all day and who doesn’t love a good bracket to decide the most talented division is?
Since we are completely revamping the Pro Bowl to its very core, let’s run through some of the logistics. Each division will get 17 players each, 1 quarterback, 1 running back, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 3 offensive linemen, 2 defensive linemen, 2 safeties, 2 corners, 2 linebackers, and 1 kicker, leading to a total of 136 Pro Bowlers. Games, consisting of two 10 minute halves, will be played on a 50-yard field as there are fewer players on the field and it will allow for a lot more offense. The first round will be North vs South and East vs West for both conferences. Losers of games will be eliminated and the final game will pit AFC vs. NFC against each other with the winning divisions facing off.
There will also be no coaches present as this will give players full creative control of the show and won’t have to do things they don’t want to do, like have a playbook. There will be a 20-second play clock so either team will have to assign the play really quickly in the huddle or throw together a haphazard playbook. Either way, if players want to run quadruple reverses or fake field goals every play, they will have the full right to do so.
What will the lineman do? Well, here’s the best part of this. Every lineman dreams of being ball carriers and there’s nothing more entertaining than seeing a big man rumble his way to the end zone so, in this Pro Bowl, we get to enjoy just that. Offensive linemen get to live out their dreams and are now skill players to be used and defensive lineman will flow between linebacker and safety depending on the player’s choices.
While there is no official rule lineman have to play (we’re not in kindergarten anymore), it’s just wrong to not let the lineman catch some passes and we’ll chalk it up to be an “unwritten rule” on this one.
The Pro Bowl is a meaningless, money-grabbing trope trying to shove a visage of a worthwhile All-Star game down our throats and so long as Goodell adds more pointless skill competitions and whole-heartedly expects us to eat it up, it will always continue to be the butt of jokes and memes. With this shift to a flag football tournament, it will accomplish everything the Pro Bowl wants to and then some. Get it done, Goodell.
This format would obviously not be the official Pro Bowl, as nobody wants to watch a bunch of unathletic schmoes get burned by Odell Beckham Jr. for three hours. However, with the NFL expanding the festivities with a week-long attempt for the “celebration of football”, a flag football game (for the love of football, let’s not pit Dan from accounting against Luke Kuechly please) played between a team of fans and a select group of Pro Bowlers is a perfect way to deeply involve the fans in the experience and could turn out to be comedy gold for everyone else.
By utilizing a sweepstake or, even better, a raffle with all funds donated to charity to select fans from across the country could get the masses to go gaga over the opportunity and in turn, bringing fans into a traditionally vacant stadium. And let’s be honest, Bradley from marketing trying to lay a dime to Garrett from sales in between Xavier Rhodes and Patrick Peterson could be the comedy show of the decade.
You Have Enough Money to do These, Goodell
So imagine you’re Todd Gurley and the game is on the line with the ball in your hands. You’re down 90-86 with 6 seconds left on the clock and you caught the dump off toss from Philip Rivers. The defense has collapsed on you and there is no way out, the game looks to be over. But wait! Just above your head is a Mario Kart-esque box flashing between icons. You punch it and you get the Bo Jackson Speed Shoes (they all have to be football themed obviously).
With these, you bolt for the end zone leaving a trail of flames on the field and no one can catch you as you break the sound barrier. You score the game-winning touchdown and you’re carried off the field on the shoulders of your teammates as you get a phone call from Donald Trump personally congratulating you on your massive achievement.
This is what we’re missing out on without Power-Up Boxes. I know the technology may be a little wonky right now but they should be online by the time next year’s Pro Bowl rolls around. Get your best engineers on it and please, come up with creative names for these. Sincerely, every football fan ever.
Play on the Moon
Come on, admit it. Seeing Julio Jones and Jalen Ramsey jump 50 feet into the air for a Carson Wentz bomb 500 yards away would be the pinnacle of entertainment. While the casual moon vacation for one would make someone around 750 million poorer, sending 88 players to the moon is probably doable for a man with your current contract.