Injury Risk Is Real Pro Bowl Problem

It’s that time of year again, when the gridiron’s best players do battle in a showdown for all the marbles in front of a ravenous crowd!

I’m speaking, of course, of the 2013 Pro Bowl!

Yes, it’s back for its third straight year after a one-year hiatus in Miami. Aloha Stadium will host its 33rd NFL Pro Bowl Jan. 27. If you believe what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says – something I’ve grown wary of doing – this just might be the last year the game is played.

During an October radio appearance, Goodell said that he was on the verge of eliminating the game after last year’s embarrassing 59-41 shootout, which was a fantastic exhibition of jogging and patty-cake. When informed of his mind-set, players “asked if they could take another crack at it to try to work to get the game more competitive.”

Here’s what I would tell the players: Don’t.

There’s no reason for the Pro Bowl to be competitive. Ideally, sure, we’d love to see the greatest players from every team join forces for the best football game imaginable, but that game would only exist in a vacuum. In the real world, football is a violent sport that has real world consequences, which are becoming more and more evident.

It’s foolish to think that the most elite football players would risk serious injury for an exhibition that takes place after their season has already been completed. They’re in vacation mode. Once those team meetings and practices end and the shoulder pads are exchanged for a neck pillow, there’s no way NFL athletes can flip the switch on again without a real incentive. They shouldn’t.

You know what’s worse than 86 NFL players not trying their hardest? One NFL player getting seriously injured.

So what should they do? People still tune in for anything the NFL does, so how can it turn what is a boring, uninspired product into something more interesting and engaging?

For starters, I’d eliminate the game. It isn’t fair to people who shell out their disposable income to watch what they (ignorantly) hope to be great football players playing great football and get, unfortunately, what they got last year.

Instead, why not have all the chosen Pro Bowlers play a golf tournament? It can be Ryder Cup style, with the NFC taking on the AFC at different courses on different islands. I have no desire to watch Vince Wilfork stand in the middle of the field and pretend to rush the passer, but I think I’d tune in to see how he hits his driver.

The players want to come out here, get some sun and play some golf. So let’s let them play some golf. We’ll just watch it live as it’s happening. It also can get fans closer and more involved. They’d be on the course and in the gallery, as opposed to the upper deck.

They also should be taking advantage of the location and have players competing in some Hawaii-specific, or at least Hawaii-accentuated activities. You’re telling me you wouldn’t watch NFL offensive line-men in a stand-up paddle relay race? Or a man-onman surf (or, more likely, body boarding) competition?

How about a shave iceor haupia pie-eating contest?

Look, we live in a culture where people seem to be drawn to watching well-known people doing things other than what they’re well-known for. Whether it’s Dancing With The Stars, Celebrity Apprentice or Stars In Danger: The High Dive, putting successful people outside their comfort zone attracts a large audience.

Since football at the highest level can be a brutal game, there’s really no point in trying to get the players to be more competitive without reason. Get them outside their comfort zone but let them enjoy the privilege and honor that comes with a Pro Bowl selection, while also showcasing aspects of Hawaii other than the stock footage of Waikiki and a half-filled Aloha Stadium.