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2006 Pro Bowl: NFC 23, AFC 17

It's a clich? serendipitous comic occurrence in many forms of entertainment, and now in the NFL Pro Bowl:

Character one says, "This is terrible," and then lists a litany of problems. Character two says, "It could be worse." Character one says, "How could it be worse." Character two says, "It could be raining."

Cue rain.

Of the very few things to see at the 2006 Pro Bowl, Mike Shanahan may have been the weirdest.

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So was the case in Honolulu for the 36th annual event, won 23-17 by the NFC (that evens the series at 18 wins apiece). What is usually a boring, high-scoring display of offensive prowess (due to defensive restrictions) turned out to be a mind-numbing, low-scoring, mistake-riddled, "defense dominated" display of feebleness of something that used to be called football.

Hey, I never much liked the 52-45 games, but they were well-played with the problem being that the defenses were handicapped by standard sets and a prohibition of blitzing.

Part of the problem today is that a growing number of elected Pro Bowlers are skipping the game, mostly with undisclosed injuries, a few with legitimate ones. Most of them are happy with the election and could care less about the game.

No Patriots played, so there was no reason to watch. I didn't, but I did watch the 10-minute capsule on On Demand through the NFL Network. Ten minutes is about all it was worth. The teams combined for 6 interceptions and 9 fumbles (but only 4 lost).

The quarterbacking was atrocious. Peyton Manning threw three picks. Steve McNair fumbled twice in the closing minutes with the AFC down by six. Trent Green threw a pick, accounting for all six of the AFC's turnovers.

On the other side, Michael Vick was gaining accolades for the strength of his left arm -- and discounting his 4 of 12 performance with a touchdown and an interception. Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception too. The only quarterback with no turnovers was Jake Delhomme, who was a "sterling" 7 of 10 for 53 yards.

None of Manning's interceptions were even capable of being caught by receivers. One was so bad that calling it a bad punt would have been an insult to bad punters. That was your play of the game for New England Patriots fans. Of course, we expect that when he plays against good defensive players.

Larry Johnson and Tiki Barber led each team with 33 yards rushing.

Derrick Brooks, who had an interception returned for a touchdown, in addition to a whole two tackles and another pass defended, was your player of the game. Judging by that, it's hard to believe they're calling this a great defensive display.

At least it doesn't appear the officials blew any major calls, though they generously gave the AFC a touchdown on a 16-yard Manning to Chris Chambers connection on which Chambers got only one foot down but was judged to be pushed out. On replay, it looked like Chambers was the one pushing off.

I don't know who called the TV game, but it's fortunate I only had to listen to 10 minutes of the Sirius radio overdub to the NFL Network piece. I couldn't quite figure out who the play-by-play guy was, but he called the same play a reverse once (incorrectly) and an end-around another (correct).

The color man was Boomer Esiason, and he made of a few of his typical clownish remarks, something about Delhomme getting sacked looking something like Jeff Van Gundy hanging on to Alonzo Mourning's leg in a comical moment of NBA history. Only Esiason would have reached that far for a very distant analogy.

Good heavens, are you still reading this?