It was a strange moment last week when Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that Houston was bidding to get the Pro Bowl. It was strange because Mr. Mayor wasn’t joking. He was serious. The people on the stage with him were serious. They desperately want the Pro Bowl to be played in Houston.
It should be obvious why Bob McNair would want the Pro Bowl in Houston the week before a Super Bowl to be played in Houston. A Pro Bowl played in Houston is the closest that any member of the Houston Texans is going to get to playing in a Super Bowl in Houston — or a Super Bowl played anywhere — so long as McNair and his minions run the Texans.
But why would anybody else of a semi-reasonable mind want this game played in Houston?
The Pro Bowl is a joke of an all-star game. Baseball players long to play in the MLB All-Star Game. The NBA All-Star Game, while not taken all that seriously, has turned into a weekend party experience for players and fans. But absolutely nobody wants to play in the Pro Bowl. The last Pro Bowl had a record number of players skip out on the game and was played in Hawaii because the thinking is that guys will at least want to vacation on the islands a bit before playing a few minutes in a meaningless game.
There’s very little defense played in the game — there’s so little defense played that one year, the game’s MVP was Matt Schaub, and the fact that Matt Schaub was a Pro Bowl QB should be further proof of how little the game’s best players want to do with this game. (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger all came up with excuses to skip out on the game.)
To make matters worse, it’s a game that Houston has to pay to get. Hawaii paid the NFL five million dollars to host the game. True, five million dollars isn’t really very much when one considers all the public money Bob McNair wants for upgrades to NRG Stadium. But wouldn’t five million dollars be useful in filling up all those potholes that Turner is desperately trying to get filled before all the visitors show up for the Super Bowl?
What’s worse is that Turner appears to have fallen for the lies about how hosting the Super Bowl will be a big boost to the Houston economy. And if the Super Bowl can help, then bribing the NFL to bring the Pro Bowl here will help that economy, too.
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“This is one of those pivotal moments when oil and gas prices are very low and we're going through layoffs in the oil and gas industry," Turner told the media last week. "This is like a shot in the arm. Even when you're going through these types of challenging times, we still need something to keep us uplifted.”
Municipalities do not make money hosting events like the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl. And for Turner to state that Arizona made $720 million the year it hosted the events shows that he (or his staff) didn’t actually research this issue, or that they’re just gullible. It’s not like Glendale attempted to hide the fact that it lost at least a half of a million dollars hosting the game.
The game is a joke. The fact that Houston will have to pay money to the league to host the game is a joke. And the fact that Houston’s political leaders not only want to pay to get Houston the game, but believe, despite the numbers, that hosting the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl will make Houston a ton of money is perhaps the biggest joke of everything, even more than Bob McNair thinking the Texans have a chance of actually playing in the Super Bowl.
There’s at least one positive, so far. At least Ed Emmett hasn’t yet proposed that the Dome be renovated so that it can become the permanent home of the Pro Bowl.