Five Ways We’d Fix the Pro Bowl

Cris Carter Michael Irvin

Ardent football fans would rather watch people talk about the NFL than watch the Pro Bowl.

They’d rather watch the scouting combine, argue about the draft — hell, they’d rather shell out money to attend the draft — than watch the Pro Bowl.

I’m not saying I want to watch the Pro Bowl either. But, I’m a cynic who doesn’t die at all every year when the NFL season ends.

Nearly a billion people watch the Super Bowl, and roughly 12 million watch the all-star game — and the latter features arguably more starpower than the former. There are a lot of deserved knocks over the game — and all football all-star games — but that’s a column for a different day.

I’m an ideas person, who likes to try to make things better. I also like to make things better by looking to the past to see what’s worked and what hasn’t. The product is the talent, and the better the talent the better the player.

With that in mind, here are five ways to make the Pro Bowl more alluring.

5. Move it back to Hawaii

Hawaii is expensive, there’s no doubt, but if the Pro Bowl is really for the players, give them an all-expenses paid trip to the big island and let them enjoy the all-star experience. Do you think these guys want to go play an all-star game in Glendale, Arizona? Have you been to Glendale, Arizona? It’s the desert. And the desert gets cold this time of the year.

It doesn’t have to be Hawaii, that particular state simply already has a reasonable football venue. The idea of making the Pro Bowl more alluring is to make it more alluring for the players involved. It all starts with Hawaii.

4. Move it to June

Or May. Somewhere away from all the other football games are played. But after the NBA and NHL playoffs end, the public is pining for football — or anything besides the every-day monotony of baseball. Why not give them what they desire? All the players are healthy by then, and the only thing you’d lose is a week of mini-camp.

3. Cooler merch

Look at this picture, if any reasonable adult bought this jersey, he’d be laughed at for eternity. It looks like something in which you’d skateboard — sidenote, do kids still skateboard?

I digress. I appreciate how difficult it is to create a uniform that is unique to each all-star team but could also coordinate with a fan’s individual team structure. But someone has to do better than this bunch has done. Better merch means more people who buy said merch and that will inevitably make the game’s brand better.

2. For the love of God, no more drafts

The NHL started the player-draft format in 2011, and it was a novel concept that the NFL then picked up on. In four years, it’s already gotten stale.

How dumb does Team Irvin vs. Team Carter sound? What is wrong with NFC vs. AFC? Or if you want to pick the 80 best players, assign them randomly. Keep everyone guessing.

The NFL draft gets blown so far out of proportion, the league is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on some of that event’s momentum, but find any way to make the team-choosing process better. The draft makes it worse.

Though the draft is made worse mostly because of the top talent’s unwillingness to participate. The best way to fix that is…

1. Bonuses for starters who play, more if your team wins

The NFL prints money. It is a $10 billion-annual entity.

A lot of players have team bonuses that kick in if they’re elected for the Pro Bowl, if they reach the all-star game, etc., but guaranteed money talks. That’s why athletes played in all-star games from the get-go — they got extra money so they wouldn’t have to work harder at their second jobs. Same with championships.

I say go back to that model, only modify it for inflation. Give $1 million to starters who play in the game; offer $250,000 for anyone else selected as a reserve. If a guy can’t play due to injury, he forfeits that money. Tough break.

The winning club then gets an added bonus — doesn’t have to be $1 million, but it should be a pretty penny also. That’s how the Super Bowl took off. The winning team got a share of the purse. Teams still get that. Everyone wants free money.

Given the fleeting shelf-life of an NFL career, and the added revenue the league will get from TV and sponsors who watch the best players, it’ll be a drop in the bucket. $22 million? Roger Goodell made $40 million last year. Robert Kraft probably blows his nose with $1 million. Might as well put all that revenue to making the product better.

There you have it, NFL. Add those five things, and watch the Pro Bowl take off. Thank me later for the free consultation.

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Pat Pickens
Pat Pickens covers the NHL for the New York Times, and XN Sports.