Over the last several years the NFL Pro Bowl has lost a lot of its interest and excitement. It is always fun to watch the league’s best players face off against each other in an all-star game, but the Pro Bowl never seemed to deliver.
It may be because it has always been played either the week before or after the Super Bowl and no one really cared about a game that meant nothing in comparison with the Super Bowl itself.
The NFL is the only sport of the big four (NHL, MLB and NBA) that conduct their all-star game at the end of the season rather than in the middle of the season. However, this is for obvious reasons as the football schedule is much different than the NBA or MLB schedule and having the Pro Bowl in the middle of the season just wouldn’t make much sense.
Every other league has the benefit of making an entire weekend out of their all-star game and does a good job of making the players have fun and get good notoriety while on their break from league play. The Pro Bowl is rarely ever a big deal.
The NBA and NHL All-Star games are coupled with other competitions that fans actually care to watch while the MLB All-Star game is actually competitive and determines which league has home-field advantage in the World Series.
But the Pro Bowl has always just been the best players from the NFC going up against the best players from the AFC in a non-violent game of football — not something that typically draws in the viewers.
This year the NFL tried something new, and dare I say it is a great idea. The 2014 Pro Bowl was the first Pro Bowl in history that wasn’t AFC vs. NFC but instead was a game between two teams that were picked by two captains in a televised fantasy draft.
The two captains — or general managers, if you will — were NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders. Both Rice and Sanders took part in the fantasy draft four days before the Pro Bowl itself where they picked their teams.
This caused an interesting situation on the field where there were 13 different NFL franchises that had players playing against each other in the Pro Bowl.
This is a great idea because it makes the Pro Bowl a whole lot more interesting. The classic AFC vs. NFC format had run its course and the NFL desperately needed to do something new with their all-star game. And choosing Rice and Sanders provided a great form of entertainment that allowed for an even greater experience.
I imagine that every year there will be different General Managers and that each year the teams will look radically different. This will certainly be good for the league moving forward.
It is just like doing a game in the second half of gym class where the two best players pick their teams and compete against each other, this one just happened to involve the best players in the world.
In the end Team Rice defeated Team Sanders 22-21 on a last minute touchdown, giving Rice some serious bragging rights over his counterpart Sanders.
Tyler Rollason is a Winder-Barrow High School graduate and mass communications major at the University of West Georgia. He writes a weekly sports column for the Barrow Journal. You can e-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.