Pro Bowl Must Go
Injuries, Lack of Interest Indignify* Game
This one wasn't quite as bad as last year's 10-turnover disaster. All the more reason to say goodbye to the Pro Bowl.
After a scoreless first quarter -- how do you have a scoreless quarter when the defenses' hands are cuffed? -- each team scored two touchdowns in the second. Then there was a predominantly scoreless third quarter, and then another 24-point flurry in the fourth.
If anything was at stake, at least you could say it was more exciting than the Super Bowl.
The AFC won on a last-play Nate Kaeding field goal, 31-28, but it was about as exciting as watching Arizona vs. Oakland at a neutral field. With the defense handcuffed and playing poorly on top of it, it's amazing the score wasn't like the old-day 52-49 scores.
31 - - - 28
Maybe it was the 3 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles (of 7 total) that kept the score low. None of the turnovers were particularly great defensive plays. Two of the interceptions looked worse than anything Drew Bledsoe has ever thrown. One was a Tiki Barber (man, what a whimpering end to his career) option pass deep into double coverage the receiver never had a chance to catch.
No one, including the broadcast team, cared. There were endless shots of Peyton Manning standing on the sideline, even though he didn't play past the first quarter.
The broadcast team of Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf and Phil Simms fawned over their favorites and ignored pretty much everyone else, and half the time they weren't even paying attention to the game. Pretty much like their regular season broadcasts.
I speculated last year that the declining quality of play (not that it was ever great) is due mostly to many of the elected players electing to skip the Pro Bowl, some for injuries, some allegedly due to injuries, but mostly because they don't care. I doubt too many people were excited to see Jonathan Ogden play, but I can tell you no one was excited to see Matt Light play.
What's the Point?
The NFL Pro Bowl has become a mockery -- like steroid-riddled Shawne Merriman and like his disrespectful "Lights Out" display.
The purpose of all-star games is so fans can watch the best of the best play against each other. That doesn't happen anymore, and with the voting as it is, you haven't really gotten it for a while. Why ask the fans to vote for who they want to see in the game if those players aren't going to show up? Why have the players vote for "who belongs" if they don't know themselves? Why honor a player by calling him a 4-time Pro Bowler when it means virtually nothing?
You can't blame some of the players. There were two injuries yesterday.
Ultimately, Chad Johnson's knee wasn't hurt as bad as it initially looked. On the other hand, I wouldn't have put him back in the game, no matter how much he begged -- not without a doctor's guarantee that he was OK -- and I bet Marvin Lewis was watching on TV somewhere, first screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" when Johnson limped off the field, "Whew!" when he appeared to be OK, and then screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" when he was back out there.
Sean Payton didn't have to watch on TV when his star quarterback had his elbow dislocated. Payton was standing on the sideline coaching the team when Drew Brees writhed in pain on the ground. Fortunately for Brees, Payton, the Saints, the city of New Orleans, the team's fans and the NFL, Brees injured his non-throwing arm, and it shouldn't affect his playing ability next year (but he might not be throwing balls in the backyard or working out for a while).
I can guarantee you Manning was on the sideline thinking, "Thank God (who helped us win the Super Bowl) that wasn't me!" And you can believe there were players on the field, on the sideline and sitting at home thinking the same thing (well, except for God helping them win the Super Bowl part).
Players Risk Careers for Nothing
Enough guys sit out for fear of being injured already. Remember, these players' contracts aren't guaranteed like they are in Major League Baseball. Their careers end, they're out of luck. Who wants to risk that in a meaningless, poorly played game?
And remember Robert Edwards? He was the New England Patriots rookie running back (he was going to help us all forget Curtis Martin's defection to the New York Jets) who almost had to have his leg amputated after destroying his knee in a rookie flag football game prior to the 1998 season's Pro Bowl.
Edwards gained 1,115 yards for the Patriots, and he looked like he could have been a star. It's a miracle he kept his leg. Even more miraculous that he actually played again. He took the field for Miami 3 1/2 years later, but he wasn't the player he had been. He sat out two more years before getting another chance with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League, where he's played two seasons.
There's only one thing I got out of this year's Pro Bowl, and that's the feeling that New England has to find a way to keep Asante Samuel in red, white and blue for a while. The cornerback play in the Pro Bowl was terrible, and these guys are supposed to be the best. Well, I said all along that Samuel got totally rooked not getting elected to the Pro Bowl (as was Tom Brady). Yesterday proved it.
* No, "indignify" is not a word. But it should be.
Must the Pro Bowl go?
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