The NFL's version of an All Star game has come under scrutiny in recent years by fans and players alike. Even Commissioner Goodell thinks it's becoming a waste of time, admitting, "We are going to either have to improve the quality of what we are doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even consider eliminating the game if that is the kind of quality of game we are going to provide."
There were times in the past when it was considered the highest individual honor to be recognized as a Pro Bowler. Players would work their entire careers to merit an opportunity to compete with the "best of the best"; unfortunately, this year we will just have to settle for "the best of the rest." This year the water-cooler conversations have shifted from discussing who got snubbed to who got subbed.
In an effort to salvage the relevance of the Pro Bowl, it was moved to the week in between the Championship games and Super Bowl Sunday. Obviously this was done to draw attention to the event as well as to give fans a football fix during the doldrums of the playoffs. However, it also means that players participating in the Super Bowl would be exempt from the Pro Bowl.
This year six members of the Baltimore Ravens and nine players from the San Fransisco 49ers have the best excuse there is to miss the Pro Bowl. The other 14 players that will miss this year's game needed no such alibi. Reasons provided for absences range from legitimate injuries to "no thanks NFL, I'll pass. I'd rather start my vacation early." Members on the losing sides of Championship Sunday have opted to abstain altogether as if to view the Pro Bowl as a reminder that they fell short of their goals this season.
Of course, there are some veterans who do not wish to see the legacy of the Pro Bowl tarnished since it would devalue their past selections. Players like Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson have been urging their peers to show up and compete this Sunday.
"I'm going to play hard," Peterson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Monday. "It is hard for me to play down because when you play down, you put yourself in jeopardy of getting hurt going through the motions. So I won't be playing down."
On the other hand, some players believe that playing hard may put them at a greater risk to get injured, resulting in an offseason of rehab or even a missed opportunity at a big payday. Either way, if some players go hard and others don't, that could lead to injuries, and controversy. As it stands, the future of the Pro Bowl hangs in the balance this Sunday. Will veterans and rookies (yes, rookies -- multiple) unite to preserve this longstanding rite of passage to NFL immortality? Or will we get the "No-Show Bowl"? It would be a shame if this event continued its recent tradition of serving as a public display of apathy.