Well whoever schedules All Star Games really blew it. One weekend full of two ASG’s was enough to make the avid sports fan I am cringe. Does anyone actually watch these games anymore? It was cool as a kid because I had stacked my video game teams to match about 80% of the players that were playing and 20% of the guys I liked from my home teams I followed. Not a huge ESPN fan when I was 8-12, but still a video game and sports fan, I didn’t really know how a lot of these guys looked outside of my Sega Genesis. To be honest, I heard of some of these guys mostly because I knew a 99 overall rating was better than a 60, and I wanted to 99 on my team. All-Star time was the only time I got to see some of them play for real, unless they played against a NY team in the playoffs or made their sport’s finals. Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky became real during the NHL ASG seeing them skate next to home town guys Messier and Graves. I saw guys like Ozzie Smith, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Mike Piazza play for the first time. I think Ozzie the first and last in 1996. Jason Kidd, Shawn Kemp, Shaq, Glen Rice, and “Penny” Hardaway were guys I remember seeing for the first time during an NBA all star game (1996 as well?). They were pretty much all on my Sega team for whichever horrible b-ball game I owned at the time.
However, I can’t really remember the pro bowl too well. Anyone not in the super bowl those years of my youth, or on the rosters of the Giants and Jets were missed. The pro bowl? I remember offense, like watching myself play the game on the Super Nintendo or something. It was like the defense was the computer on Rookie setting and the offense was throwing to Jerry Rice or Michael Irvin the whole time. Granted the NHL AS games get pretty offensive, but there’s only 10 guys and 2 goalies to watch at a time, almost half that of the NFL. It is a lot easier to spot your favorite players. Anyway, to be honest, the actual games aren’t what I remembered most about growing up. This would explain why the football version of an All Star Game (with a cutesy name like Pro Bowl) never stuck out. You know what did? The Quarterback Challenge when they used to have them. I remember looking for guys like Young and Aikman. Moon and Cunningham. Esiason and Favre. Elway and Testaverde. Marino and O'Donnell. Before I knew the names of all of the teams, I remember watching these QBs going through their skills competitions. What happened to that?! What was the NFL thinking shutting this down? Was it because Josh McCown won the last one? (This I researched a little bit - seems to be due to legal reasons but come on, the NFL has money and lawyers). I'm sure they just said "Nah, this game with no blitzing, no motioning on offense, no press coverage, and disallowed certain formations is good enough." LOOK AT THE OTHER ONES?! The NBA: 3 point contest, slam dunk contest. NHL: Fastest shot, breakaway challenge, accuracy challenges, fastest skaters. Even MLB has the Home Run Derby that everyone seems to love (I won’t rant about how the ASG deciding home field advantage is absolutely a fucking travesty to the game in this article, it will be 30 pages long).
Why can’t the NFL take a hint? No one will care about their Pro Bowl other than the offensive players (and the defensive and lineman for getting recognized at least). Actually, the game last night had me so enthralled, I was Googling what kind of humidifier to use if I want to put vodka in it and get drunk in a room of the size of my living room (still inconclusive if it is even possible ((or safe)) for those of you playing the home game). I think it is the only sport that should not have an actual game to play. The risk of getting seriously hurt in the sport does seem to be much higher than the other 3. I get these guys are grossly overpaid, and obviously the best on their teams. I do not want to see someone’s career end because of a game played for fun. I also don’t want to see a bunch of people standing around playing catch with wide receivers and running through holes that I may be able to hit for a few yards. Announce the rosters and honor the players somehow (press release to ESPN is fine). Even better - can’t we see a skills challenge or two or three come back? They just had goalies for the first time compete in the fastest skate competition in the NHL. Don’t you want to see if Devin Hester is really the fastest in the league? How about a foot race between Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork for the slowest Patriot? They can have a lot of fun with this. Think outside the QB box.
COME ON NFL! Did you really think moving the game before the Super Bowl will get people to care? All you did was get it out of the way earlier for us. However, you gave analysts another platform to cover some more Super Bowl stories as well. Great, just when you thought they wouldn’t have enough time a week before the game to get it all rammed down our throat, they get another few hours to mix it in. Thankfully no one else was dumb enough to watch it like I did. They showed before halftime that they were prepping both Super Bowl QBs for an interview during halftime of the pro bowl. Guess what? I didn’t watch it. I turned it back on in the middle of the third quarter during the AFC’s attempt at a comeback from a 40+ point deficit at half. Great game. After the best weekend of the conference championships, we have to put up with this? Way to get me ready for the big one!
All in all, I am rambling myself out of a conclusion here, so I will wrap it up. NFL – take some tips from your other competition. Are you that much better than the other 3 to not need a gimmick for your All Stars? Take it from me: Give the people what they want – entertainment, not a crappy football game.