Sports Columns

Column: The NFL’s Rebranding of The Pro Bowl Games and Why It’s a Winner

Fernando Molina Bier | The PhoenixThe first edition of The Pro Bowl Games will feature a flag football game between the Pro Bowl selections of the AFC and NFC.

The NFL announced “The Pro Bowl Games” Aug. 26 — a rebrand of the Pro-Bowl — taking place this season Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. This is the best decision the NFL has made in years, and, as an American football fanatic, I will not miss the Pro Bowl one bit.

For those of you who don’t know, the Pro Bowl is an annual exhibition match between the two conferences in the NFL — the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Every year, fans vote for players they believe should represent each conference, making it a star-studded event. In recent years, the weekend has also included several skill games and other competitions like dodgeball.

Starting this season, The Pro Bowl Games will be headlined by a game of flag football between the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams instead of a tackle game. There will also be more emphasis on the skill games between players.

On a surface level, a full tackle game between the league’s most popular and talented players sounds exciting, but it’s not sustainable for a plethora of reasons. 

No Motivation to Compete

Every player that participates in the Pro Bowl has one thing in common: his team did not make the Super Bowl. While the champions of each conference get ready for the big game, Pro Bowl selections play in a game for monetary compensation that many consider insignificant. Athletes aren’t incentivized enough to play an entertaining game, especially after playing a full season in one of the world’s most physically demanding sports.

Injury Exposure

If I had to guess what an NFL players’ biggest fear was, I would very confidently say it’s getting injured. I would also very confidently say the dumbest place to have that happen would be in the Pro Bowl, because again, they aren’t training or competing for anything that matters. The last thing any athlete wants to do is jeopardize playing time by competing in an exhibition game, especially in the NFL, where every team has a mere 17 games in the regular season. This results in mediocre play by the player which, in my opinion, is justified.

Nobody Takes it Seriously, not Even the Viewers

According to Sportsnaut, the 2022 Pro Bowl averaged 6.69 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, and DisneyXD. To put this in perspective, the highest watched preseason game averaged 5.82 million viewers, according to CBS Sports. Personally, I would much rather watch rookies fight for a roster spot during the preseason — because there’s actual competition — over the star-studded Pro Bowl. For an event with the most popular NFL athletes, it’s embarrassing to rank close to a preseason game in viewership.

Luckily, unlike any other major sports league in the United States, the NFL is very versatile and quick to adapt to what the fans want, or, more specifically, what it believes will generate the most money. The introduction of The Pro Bowl Games was definitely one of these moves.

The introduction of The Pro Bowl Games is the start of a new event that looks to exploit the true purpose of the Pro Bowl — having fun. 

Though player compensation hasn’t increased, once the fear factor is taken away, the athlete’s inherent competitive nature does the rest. Instead of focusing on another physically demanding game, Pro Bowl selections will view The Pro Bowl Games as a fun vacation, where they get to compete with and against friends in silly games for bragging rights. Trust me, the dodgeball game always gets way more heated than the actual Pro Bowl.

Ultimately, switching from tackle to flag football helps the sport grow in popularity. This is important because it endorses a non-contact version of football in which kids of all ages and genders can compete at the highest level. The event will also host flag football games featuring top high school programs in the country, which will be a huge motivation for children to pursue the sport. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a bunch of NFL players spinning around trying to protect their flags?

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