Tonight, the NFL will announce which players have been selected by their peers, coaches and fans to play in the 2012 Pro Bowl. What was once an honor (and a nice vacation to Hawaii) has become a groan-inducing game that we all watch simply because it’s hard to say goodbye to professional football.
In the Pro Bowl, nothing is on the line, it’s just supposed to be a celebration of the NFL’s top talent. While that’s somewhat true—and I’m going to watch this year as I do every year—the whole process of who gets selected to the teams and who gets snubbed is imperfect at best and a total farce at the worst.
The fans, players and coaches each account for one-third of a player’s selection to the Pro Bowl, however it seems that in recent years, the fans’ vote has gotten more and more weight, as the Pro Bowl seems to be more of a popularity contest than a true display of the league’s top talent.
Every year, players with high-name recognition get Pro Bowl nods while some of their lesser-known peers get snubbed—even if they’ve outperformed the more famous player.
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That’s why someone like New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has played in a number of Pro Bowls when he was a Cincinnati Bengal, despite never being all that impressive of a player.
Further, voting happens so early in the season that a number of players selected to their conference’s squad cannot attend due to injury.
Instead of getting the highest-talented players on the field, a lot of times the fifth or sixth selected quarterback, running back or defensive end gets to play in the Pro Bowl because the four ahead of him are injured and cannot play.
But the biggest problem with the Pro Bowl is the timing.
The game used to be played the week after the Super Bowl, allowing members of both Super Bowl teams to play in the Pro Bowl if they’ve been voted in.
Now that the game occurs the week before the Super Bowl. The players participating in the championship game need to prepare and don’t want to get injured in a meaningless exhibition, making some of the league’s top playmakers stay off the field in a game specifically organized to promote them.
The Pro Bowl needs to move back to its traditional, post-Super Bowl slot and needs to either rely solely on the fans’ votes or use those votes only symbolically and just base the rosters on who the coaches and players select.
Otherwise, the Pro Bowl is just an inconveniently-timed popularity contest that doesn’t adequately reflect the high level of talent around the NFL.