Commissioners Goodell and Silver, how in the world did you mess this up too?
The Pro Bowl and NBA All-Star games are absolute disasters that could be easily fixed with some common sense from the men in charge. I mean seriously, your task is to put out a watchable product with the world’s best players in your respective sport, and you somehow find a way to screw it up with some new non-sense year after year. It’s simple.
There are so many points to touch on regarding this commonly debated topic, and well get through all of them here. Although, we have to start with the most common one; the “injury risk” debate…
Every year, fans around the world fall into the same exact trap of getting all excited for these games as a result of the immense hype they receive all over the media. And what happens every year? The same exact thing. We turn on the game just to see some athletes who get paid tens and hundreds of million dollars annually, screw around on a field/court because they “don’t want to get hurt”.
And you know what, whether we want to admit it or not, the players are right in both cases. In terms of the Pro Bowl, your headed into a crucial off-season period where your goal is to rest and stay in shape after a long, tough football season filled with hits and injuries throughout. And especially in a period where injuries are under more speculation than ever in football, there’s no point in risking the chance for an even harder off season by participating in a meaningless game while healthy, and getting hurt. When it comes to basketball, you have a very similar situation. Despite injuries in basketball being much less common and dangerous compared to football, the ASG is mid-season, and one wrong step or fall can ruin your season. Again, this is in an absolutely meaningless game. As a result of all of this, many of the players refuse to play at full effort, and even don’t play at all in some cases (mostly the Pro Bowl) which obviously looks bad on the NBA and NFL.
But then comes the reoccurring problem of having to still put “something” out there for the viewers. Well instead of keeping the same meaningless, high-injury risk game out there where players won’t put out maximum effort, let’s come up with a solution.
There are so many creative, yet simple replacement options for both games that would make so much more sense and make things a lot better. I’ve seen plenty of suggestions by sports fans all over the place, but I have two favorites in particular…
(Disclaimer: I am focusing on the actual game itself for both, as opposed to the mini-games and activities that are fine for the moment and easily created)
In place of the old-school tackle football styled Pro Bowl, we split the stars into smaller teams captained by the eight QB representatives and have them put into a touch/flag football tournament. (The same amount of players as always will be selected for the game.) These teams will now have something to play for in a much safer environment, where everyone can not only get involved for the whole time, but play on both sides of the ball battling out for the championship. Many may argue that this “pickup” styled format defeats the purpose of choosing the traditional two teams consisting of players from both sides of the ball, but there’s a catch. Each team will be set up very specifically. They will all consist of 2 offensive lineman to block, a Quarterback, and 4-5 skilled position players (halfbacks and receivers). They’ll switch with the defensive unit consisting of 3 defensive lineman to rush, and linebackers and defensive backs to cover the route-runners. Field Goals, punts and returns will all be included as well which gets the special-teamers involved too. So all in all, this new format eliminates so many problems.
- No glaring injury-risks
- Something to legitimately play for now
- Now players will actually PLAY in the game now that they’re on smaller teams, as opposed to barely playing in the Pro Bowl with a rotation
- Takes away the mass amount of non-participating players
Now for the NBA All-Star Game. Shockingly, they’re finally heading in the right direction as they introduced the the ability for player captains to now select the teams. This solves the glaring problem of the lob sided conferences, as the West rules the East in every way. We’ll have to see if this new competitive aspect to the game can truly solve the player effort problem, but my money is on the opposite – the game is still flawed. The idea is a combination of several that I’ve came across over the media and it’s another pickup style tournament. Again, this new format would not change the number of players selected to the game. The 24 players will be split up into 8 teams in a knockout-style, 3 on 3 tournament. The top 8 vote-getters will be the captains selecting their teams regardless of positions. This again, solves the playing time and ‘starters’ issue and allows the players to go at it the whole time in a competitive, old-school playground style. And the best part of all of this is we will finally be able to see who the best pickup ball player is in the world. How awesome would that be. So after all, this eliminates:
- Takes away issue of lack of playing time and rotations
- Adds a much better competitive factor
- Brings a much more entertaining view for the fans and analysts to not only watch, but to debate about
- Will finally crown the best pickup players in the world.
The last aspect I would like to touch on is the flawed voting system. It’s honesty ridiculous that players can make it over other just because of their past reputations or popularity. It should be strictly based on their season. When the season’s over, we always talk about who had an “all-star caliber year” and it’s because they PERFORMED that year – not just because they’ve been good in the past. Secondly, lets take out the conference restrictions. We all know that the NFC and Western Conference have by far the better players, so why waste them for crappy AFC and Eastern Conference players… WE WANT THE BEST PLAYERS! The fan voting should be a lot lower of a percentage towards the vote, and experts should be assuring the game to have the best players. For example, in the NBA All-Star game this season, players like Paul George, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Lou Williams and Andre Drummond were absolutely snubbed mostly because of the conference restrictions. Please try telling me that Kyle Lowry, Al Horford, Kevin Love, and Draymond Green deserve it over them. As Stephen A. Smith would say, “THIS IS BLASPHEMOUS!” Now in the Pro Bowl, we don’t have as much of the “better player” debate as there’s such a large amount of players selected, but the fact that players like T.Y. Hilton, Derek Carr and Jason Witten made it is terrible. Don’t get me wrong, they’re awesome players, but totally undeserving of a Pro Bowl nod after their seasons.
Getting a new format for the Pro Bowl and All-Star game is certainly achievable, but it’s going to be hard for both leagues to accept giving up the traditional game that has been ongoing for decades on decades. It will truly be an example of a real step in the right direction for both if it happens, but getting to that point will definitely be hard.
Mr. Silver and Goodell, do this for the fans… Please.
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(Cover Photo Credit: https://www.gq.com/story/adam-silver-nfl-job)