Drama? You want drama?
Well, Sunday's Pro Bowl definitely had it. In years past, it was not at all uncommon to see a combined score of over 100 points.
Sunday's 22-21 final in favor of Rices' all-stars was one of the lowest Pro Bowl scores on record. Rice's All-Stars came back from a touchdown to win it on a two-point conversion halfback blast up the middle by Carolina Panthers' running back Mike Tolbert. But, was anyone watching? Nope. According to the Sports Business Daily, the Pro Bowl received its lowest TV ratings since 2009, due to the Grammy Award Ceremony held at the same time.
What I do not understand, however, is the decline in actual attendance at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The game was competitive throughout and aside from the showboating of a select few players, see Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt and his surfing celebration, it could not have gone any better. Deion "prime time" Sanders and Jerry Rice put together the two best Pro Bowl rosters in recent memory. This year's annual pre-Super Bowl clash pitted teammates against each other in some cases, which just added to the intrigue surrounding the game.
New rules were added by the NFL for the Pro Bowl only to entice players to keep playing hard until the final whistle. Included in the new rules are two-minute warnings at the end of the first and third quarters. At the end of the quarter, the ball will be surrendered to the other team. Kickoffs are no longer part of the games, as the ball is placed at the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays. As for the defense, they are now allowed to play only press and cover-two defense. Oh, and the clock runs on an interception, unless one is thrown in the last two minutes of the first half, and the last five minutes of the second half.
Throughout the game, the cameras panned the crowd to find those select few diehards who were happy to be there, but for the most part, the back-drop was a sea of empty orange seats.
Maybe local fans were not at all intrigued by the idea of the NFL laying the old format of NFC All-Stars vs. AFC All-Stars to rest because its success rate was undetermined. Regardless, it was an amazing prelude to the Super Bowl. Fans were still treated to watching All-Stars who they likely might not have had a chance to watch during the regular season.
Take Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback and Pro Bowl first-timer Nick Foles. He had the highest passer rating in the NFL this season, yet I am willing to bet the majority of fans could not even tell you the team he plays for. This year's Pro Bowl for the first time in a long time forced its coaches to strategically game-plan and coach. Players were in for more snaps than the regular allotted one series. Kickers like New England Patriot Stephen Gostkowski were forced to showcase their golden boot. NFL executives could not have dreamed of a better debut for the new Pro Bowl format.
NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth proposed the plan in July at an NFLPA meeting to have Hall of Famers serve as captains. Two NFL.com fantasy football champions were also responsible for assembling the rosters.
An ongoing problem with the Pro Bowl in previous years was that it looked like no more than an exhibition that the players had no interest in playing. Does anybody else remember the "tweeting zone" on the sidelines where players could send tweets as the game was still being played. Give me a break.
While the NFL Pro Bowl surely has some critics still out there that think doing away with the game is the best thing to do, I, for one, say keep the new format. It gave new life to the annual exhibition with a truly unique and entertaining concoction of rule changes and stars.
Sure, it was weird watching two teammates on opposite sidelines, but we are forgetting that they were not always teammates. The sticker on the side of a player's helmet means more to the fans than it does the players. So long as they're strapping up their pads and playing, they could care less what jersey they are wearing.
If Major League Baseball did away with their National League vs. American League format for the MLB All-Star game and adopted a scenario where the Hall-of-Famers selected the teams, it, too, could become more intriguing ... just some food for thought, folks.