The game, while never exactly scintillating football, has become a sham in recent seasons. Non-existent defense, players merely going through the motions, numerous players refusing their selections—the issues the Pro Bowl face are numerous and daunting.
The biggest problem, however, is that the sport of football, by its nature, simply doesn't lead itself to an all star exhibition. Football is a fast, physical game that requires intricate offensive and defensive scheming to provide a suitable product for fans to watch. NFL players, understandably, aren't going to risk injury in an exhibition game, and coaches don't have the time or the interest to game plan anything beyond the most vanilla of offensive and defensive sets.
The commissioner can threaten all he wants, and there certainly can be a bit more of an effort from the players, but the game will never be anything more than a watered down version of the game we love.
So perhaps it is time to think outside the box. It's the players we wish to see at the Pro Bowl, not necessarily the game of football. So why not pit the NFC vs. the AFC in a Pro Bowl weekend of sporting events that feature the players competing in a variety of athletic events that would capture the imagination of both the players and NFL fans?
Pit the conferences against each other in events such as beach volleyball, twelve inch softball, tug-of-war, an obstacle course, a quarterback throwing skills competition, a rowing event, three-on-three basketball, a three-point shooting contest, etc.
There are numerous possibilities that would be highly entertaining to watch. You could even get really outside the box and include non-athletic events such as a karaoke competition or a spelling bee.
All the events would garner points for the victor, and rules could be established to ensure every selected Pro Bowler has to complete in a set amount of events.
The weekend would culminate with a flag football game. No pads, no helmets, just the basic game many of us have played in school through intramural athletics. Of course, the league would probably be hesitant to go this route after New England Patriot Robert Edwards shredded his knee in the rookie beach flag football game back in 1999.
So maybe you don't play the flag football game on the beach.
I don't know how much of this would work, if any of it. I do know, however, that all of this would be highly more entertaining than the farce of a football game they subject us all to at the end of every season. It would also provide a great outlet for the league to promote their athletes, giving these guys an opportunity to show off their personalities and provide a glimpse of our elite football players outside of the helmet and shoulder pads.
I think it would be great for the game and a lot of fun.
Okay, so maybe no spelling bee.