Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the NFL: Pro Bowl Overhaul

The NFL is clearly our nation's most popular sport.

Some have even called the game recession proof, something Roger Goodell obviously doesn't agree with since our favorite grinch, citing the sour economy, slashed nearly 14 percent of his staff earlier this week just in time for Christmas.

That said, the NFL is clearly miles ahead of Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association these days. Hockey isn't even involved into
the discussion anymore.

One thing that hasn't translated along with the rest of the NFL's popularity, however, is the league's annual All-Star game, the Pro Bowl.

Unlike the rest of the NFL, the Pro Bowl is a distant afterthought compared to the MLB All-Star Game and the NBA's brilliant concept of All-Star weekend.

A lot of the problem is just timing and the fact football is a game that doesn't translate to a laid back setting.

The other All-Star games are midseason while the Pro Bowl is played a week after the Super Bowl...Talk about a letdown.

Meanwhile, let's face it, it's tough to kiss each other on the cheek, like Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson, after you just whacked a guy like, say Patrick
Willis did to Brad Smith last week.

The timing issue might change during the next collective bargaining agreement as Goodell is trying to move the game to the site of the Super Bowl during the
open week between the championship games and the big one. A rare good idea from the commish.

Here's another one that could be imposed unilaterally by Goodell.

How about actually waiting until the season ends before picking the best players?

Fan voting for the NFC Pro Bowl closed on Tuesday. The players and coaches will get their opportunity to pick the game's best players on Thursday and
Friday -- a full three games before the season ends.

True stars like a James Harrison or an Adrian Peterson have already earned their trips to Honolulu, but what about some of the new stars having
breakthrough seasons?

Take a look at the NFC North. You all know the Vikings tight end now after FOX showed Visanthe and his little "Shiancoe" in all its glory on national
television. But, did you know Shiancoe, an excellent blocker, is tied for NFC lead among tight ends in touchdown receptions?

And, remember the Morgan State product is having a breakthrough year with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson throwing to him. Shiancoe belongs in the Pro
Bowl but simply doesn't have the reputation to earn a trip at this point. But, imagine if the Vikings run the table and Shiancoe caches three or four more
TDs along the way.

Or how about the Chicago Bears and their rookie running back Matt Forte. The former Tulane star is no Peterson, Michael Turner or Brian Westbrook but what
if he excels down the stretch and the Bears overtake Minnesota, while both Atlanta and Philadelphia are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Shouldn't Forte be honored?

It's not like tabulation is the problem.

We can count nearly 130 million votes on election day and have the results by the next morning. And, heck the NFL will announce the Pro Bowl teams on
December 23 -- two business days after the players and coaches vote.

It just makes sense to honor the best players and the true stars of the NFL are made in the big games.

Big games that don't count for the Pro Bowl.

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