The Press Box Perspective
By Drew Zuhosky
This Sunday, get out your chips, make the guacamole dip and order a pizza because it’s the Pro Bowl! Who’s ready to watch the action between two All-Pro teams, led by honorary captains, Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice? You don’t want to miss it!
The fact of the matter is that fans haven’t been tuning in for the Pro Bowl over the past few years. Even though football is America’s favorite sport, fewer people watch the Pro Bowl on television.
Case in point: although last year’s Pro Bowl telecast was the highest-rated program on cable that week, an estimated 8.8 million viewers tuned in to watch, giving the Pro Bowl the fewest amount of viewers it’s had since 2007.
Ratings aside, people aren’t watching the Pro Bowl because it doesn’t play like a normal NFL game would. There are some different rules for the game, such as no kickoff and the spotting of the ball at the 25-yard line when the game begins and after a scoring possession.
Another such rule change added last season is the fact that there’s a two-minute warning in each quarter and not just in the second and fourth quarters of the game. Also instituted last year for the Pro Bowl is an automatic turnover of possession at the quarter breaks.
There was a time several years ago where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted to end the Pro Bowl. Back in 2012, Goodell revealed on his Sirius XM Satellite Radio program that he considered ending the Pro Bowl because of the quality of play, until players objected.
In the years since, with the change from the American Football Conference/National Football Conference matchup to a fantasy football-style pairing, maybe the Pro Bowl is here to stay.
In the past two seasons, the margin of victory in the Pro Bowl has been a combined five points. Both of those Pro Bowls were a far cry from the 62-35 blowout by the NFC in the last AFC/NFC contest in 2013.
Still though, the big question regarding the Pro Bowl is “is it necessary?” For a game that was almost wiped away a few years ago and only has its marquee players in the lineup briefly, the answer is yes.
At the core, the Pro Bowl is a means of showcasing the NFL’s most popular athletes, even if not many people are watching. You have to remember that some of the guys who will be playing in Sunday night’s game are from teams who didn’t get into the playoffs. As such, this is their lone chance to show everyone their talents in the postseason.
However, there’s also the argument that because the Pro Bowl is now staged the week prior to the Super Bowl, those selected to the game who will be in the Super Bowl don’t get to be in the Pro Bowl. Some have the attitude of “OK, since my favorite player’s in the Super Bowl this year, I don’t need to watch the Pro Bowl.”
There are some viewers who watch the game just long enough to see the guy from their favorite team get in and shut it off once that player is done.
These are very poor attitudes to have. Personally, I enjoy the Pro Bowl every year. I set aside the time on that day to park myself in front of the TV, have a hot dog and enjoy the game. I like seeing the athletes play in the Pro Bowl because they’re showing their talents off while having a good time doing it.
People should watch the Pro Bowl because it’s the only football game where the entertainment aspect of football takes center stage over the competition aspect of football.
Forget that the Pro Bowl’s an exhibition and forget about the ratings. Just enjoy the game on Sunday night. It may be another close game.