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The Experimental Pro Bowl Format was Better

The Pro Bowl was moved to Miami in 2010.

To nobody’s surprise the offenses lit up the scoreboard in the 2010 Pro Bowl as the American Football Conference edged the National Football Conference, 41-34. It was a typical Pro Bowl. There were no hard hits, with the exception of San Diego wideout Vincent Jackson’s crack-back block on Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews. Most of the players were moving at half speed, and the teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards and 75 points.

However, the location of the game, and when it was played were not typical, and I didn’t mind. For the first time in three decades the Pro Bowl was not played in Hawaii. Instead, the NFL decided to have this year’s game at the site of the Super Bowl, Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida.

By moving the game to Miami the NFL sought to transform the atmosphere of the game (ABC also wanted better ratings), and in many respects they succeeded. The attendance of 70,697 was the largest for a Pro Bowl since 1959.  Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the game has been played for the past thirty years, has a capacity of only 50,000, and most of the people in attendance have no idea what they’re looking at. I’m guessing that the majority of the 70,000 plus in Attendance on Sunday night were true NFL fans, and knew the game of football. Having the game in the continental United States allows true NFL fans to attend the game, and it’s all about the fans, right? And although the stadium was half-empty in the third quarter, I blame that on the rain, wind, and wimpy people from Miami who think 62 degrees is cold.

The one-year experiment placed this year’s game one week before the Super Bowl instead of one week after. As a result, I actually watched the Pro Bowl for the first time in over five years. Personally, I have found that when the game is played after the Super Bowl, I am already out of football-watching mode. I’m busy watching the NBA, NHL, and NCAA hoops. By the time the Pro Bowl comes around, I’ve spent a week talking about the Super Bowl, and then I’m finished with football.

With the Super Bowl looming, this year’s game certainly captured my attention. I enjoyed watching the halftime interview with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, even if they managed to dodge and tip-toe around most of the questions. That’s something I wouldn’t have seen in Honolulu.  I also liked the fact that deserving players like Steeler’s tight end Heath Miller, and players who might not have deserved to play but were excited to be there like Jaguar’s QB David Garrard, got a chance to play in place of the Colts players who are preparing for the Super Bowl. And while many complained its unfair to the Colts and Saints who were selected, I’m sure they’re perfectly fine just playing for the world championship.

I also thought the coverage was exceptional. With all of the players ESPN had “mic’ed up,” it was interesting being able to hear players talking on the field. At one point I felt like I was standing next to Ray Lewis as he barked out the defensive play call. It was also nice being able to watch and listen to the players joking around on the sideline. Ray Lewis talking to Antonio Gates, Trent Cole talking to Clay Matthews, those are things us fans don’t normally get to see.

I tried hard to keep myself above all the negativity surrounding the Pro Bowl this year. It was tiresome listening to all of the television analysts, journalists, and even some of the players taking jabs at the game. The bottom line is that this game is played just for fun. From what I have read it sounds like the players had fun playing, and I definitely had fun watching. And nobody can complain about the level of entertainment offered on Sunday night. A game decided by one touchdown in the fourth quarter sat just fine with me.

So next year, when the game moves back to Honolulu, and it’s played after the Super Bowl, I probably won’t watch. But for what it’s worth, this NFL fan enjoyed the one-year experiment.

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