American Football

NFL should replace Pro Bowl with documentary about the season


NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC at NFC
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

You can’t fix something that never worked, it’s time to accept change

It’s tired to keep saying that “the Pro Bowl sucks” every year. One glaring issue with that statement is that it implies that the Pro Bowl is the same as football, which is the reason that the NFL made their biggest all-star game adjustment yet by replacing soft football with flag football. And trying to increase the relevancy of skill competitions.

But none of what happens during Pro Bowl weekend is “football” and it never will be. So stop trying.

The 2022 Pro Bowl ratings (last year) were at their lowest since 2006 and this year’s skills competition drew a little over 1 million viewers. That’s good news if you’re maybe an NBC sitcom these days, but it is hardly representative of the power of the NFL on television: 82 of the top-100 TV events last year were NFL games.

In a week, over 100 million people will watch the Super Bowl. Apparently, 99-percent of those people do not care about tangentially related football events involving their favorite football players.

I mean, it would only take 30,000 fans of every team to amount to 1,000,000 people. Only 30,000 people! That’s less than half the capacity for SoFi Stadium. Last year, SI estimated that there are 184,000,000 NFL fans in the world. Essentially that would mean that almost half of one percent are interested in a “dunk contest for football players” and the Pro Bowl game itself may be even less interesting.

Even the Flag Football 12-minute highlights have only garnered 1 million views on YouTube. That’s about one-percent the number of people who watch a Mr. Beast video.

But I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Pro Bowl sucks anymore than it would be fair for a music junkie to say that the Grammys suck: The Grammys are not in the category of music, they are in the category of “awards shows” and should only be judged against other awards shows.

In that sense…the Grammys still suck.

But they don’t suck in the same way that bad music sucks. They just give awards to bad music.

The Pro Bowl has never been football and it shouldn’t be judged as football games are judged. Clearly the most important element to our enjoyment of football games is the competitive nature to beat the other team and fans have no interest in an event in which the end result carries no meaning. The players have no interest in it either. If one of them does have an interest in it, what are they?

They’re taking it too seriously.”

What the NFL needs to realize eventually is that the Pro Bowl doesn’t work. In any form. Yes, they might be able to draw 6 million viewers, which is more than almost any other TV show possible, especially on a Sunday. But what could be more natural to the NFL than the greed…to do better?

Six million viewers is laughable to the NFL. Even the Amazon Prime Thursday Night Games, an experiment in sports television never seen before and likely to continue growing, drew an average of 9.6 million viewers. And most of those games were absolutely terrible.

With 184,000,000 fans worldwide and the power to access them through streaming services, the NFL should be fixated on improving the content that comes out a week before the Super Bowl. This is their last chance to attract viewers before the offseason and watching a glorified pro day is not the way to do it.

My suggestion: Give us football.

The NFL season is over and there’s one more game left, so do the “One Shining Moment” thing but extend it to two hours. From the end of the previous season’s Super Bowl to the recent conference championships, show us everything that happened in the last 12 months. The big trades, the signings, the draft, the heartbreaking stories, the retirements, the coaching changes, and re-living all the best game moments from the regular season and playoffs; mixed with interviews from the people who lived through those moments.

Instead of watching Tyler Huntley in the Pro Bowl, we could be hearing from Tom Brady about his final season. (Brady would never agree to do this, he’s saving his story for his own production company, but you get the point.) Instead of a skills competition that nobody is tuning into, you could bring me back to September’s greatest moments that I had long since forgotten. Give me Tyreek Hill’s thoughts on the trade. Give me Derek Carr’s answers as to what went wrong. Give me Nathaniel Hackett laughing over his biggest regrets.

You could still feature all the players who “made” the Pro Bowl, but without having to make them participate in tangentially-related activities that we don’t love them for.

Don’t give me the leftover parts of a pig in a bucket and tell me that it’s gourmet sausage.

The problem with the Pro Bowl is the same issue with any “all-star” event or awards show. It’s not in the same category as the thing that we love. So instead of trying to improve the Pro Bowl, it’s time to simply replace it and to turn it into something else that’s in a category a lot of people love and that the NFL has already proven they’re capable of excelling at with Hard Knocks.

Documentary filmmaking.

A football show after the football season will never be good. A football documentary about the football season could be great.

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