After this past weekend's (mostly) delicious serving of playoff football, the immediate impulse is to want more - much, much more - especially after the wild NFC Championship game between Seattle and Green Bay.
It sets in quite quickly though that there is only one game left on the docket - the biggest of them all, granted, but one game nonetheless. The hype train for Super Bowl XLIX has already begun to churn, but at a certain point two weeks of media speculation, meaningless quotes and repeated narratives get old and tiresome.
"Just play the damn game already!" we'll all yell, exasperated as the stories surrounding the big game get wilder and wilder as the two weeks drag on.
But wait! There is football to be had before the Patriots and Seahawks face off in Arizona! How could we forget...the Pro Bowl?
It's quite easy to forget the Pro Bowl, actually - for a long list of reasons, a list so long that it would have probably been rejected as a story pitch simply because of the fact that it would be the longest list-style article in the history of the Internet.
Everyone loves a collection of star athletes. Even when the games mean nothing, it's still nice to see the best of the best go at it; but in a contact sport like football, what's the point of having a game when several main aspects of the game - namely tackling and playing defence - are removed from the equation.
The NFL has tinkered and toyed with the event, but seemingly nothing has been able to revive interest in the event. Perhaps it's time for something truly new: here are a couple of ideas for you, Roger.
10 Having No Pro Bowl
Seems simple enough, right? Just rid yourself of it once and for all. Why continue to run an event that seemingly nobody cares about? Cancel the whole thing and simply hand out Pro Bowl nominations, and be done with it. This way, no one undeserving of the "Pro Bowler" label can earn one thanks to a dropout, injury, or replacement to a Super Bowl player. Not only that, the NFL doesn't have to continue to pretend to care about hyping up the event or making it seem like this glorified football game is actually doing anything to grow the sport.
9 Hold Media Day on "Pro Bowl Sunday"
Somehow, someway, Super Bowl media day has become one of the biggest media events of the year. Mostly because a bunch of random reporters show up to try and twirl seemingly nothing into something, but also thanks to some of the crazies who end up showing up for media day. The planned media sessions are usually held during the week - and it still garners fairly good ratings. Why not move it to the Sunday usually occupied by the Pro Bowl? More viewers will be able to tune in, and the NFL can somehow take advantage of social media to take Media Day to an entirely new level.
8 NFL Pro-Am
This, surprisingly, is something that is not done often enough. EA Sports already runs their own version of an NFL Pro-Am to help market their video games - so why can't the NFL do the same? Madden has been able to reel in some fairly big names over the years, so it shouldn't be too difficult for the NFL to get something just as good (if not better) going.
Besides, who doesn't want to see LeBron James and Kevin Durant playing flag football again?
7 Get Rid of the Second Week Off
The NFL gives the Super Bowl participants two weeks before the big game to prepare, adjust to new surroundings, and perhaps most importantly, heal up their players. This year, this could pay dividends for the Seahawks, who will have ample time to treat injuries to starting right tackle Justin Britt and elite cornerback Richard Sherman, who hurt his arm making a tackle against the Packers on Sunday.
But let's be real here - everyone hates how long we have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday. So, while we get the need for resting up the stars, why does the NFL (and pretty much all football leagues, for that matter) feel the need to wait an extra week? If the reason is to build up hype, it's a horrible excuse - it's a foregone conclusion each year that the Super Bowl is going to be one of the most watched events in the history of television.
6 Move HOF Weekend to Pro Bowl Weekend
Here's an idea to kill two birds with one stone. The NFL usually has their Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the beginning of the preseason - and it also means that two teams are "forced" into playing a fifth preseason game. For the most part, the only guys who see the field during that first preseason game are the longest of longshots - so while taking away the game means taking away a football game between the good people of Canton, Ohio, I doubt they will truly miss the one series from both starting quarterbacks each year. The NFL could also mix in a the aforementioned Pro-Am into this weekend.
5 Have Everyone Play A Different Position
Here's something a bit out of left-field that would probably be shut down immediately by the "No Fun League." Wouldn't it be crazy to have All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas take the snap at quarterback, pitch it to "running back" Julio Jones, who then laterals it to "receiver" DeMarco Murray, who throws a deep ball to another "receiver," Joe Haden, only to have it picked off by hard-hitting safety Cam Newton?
Seems crazy, right? Wrong. All of these guys are pure athletes, and pure football players - they all played a multitude of positions when they were younger, and they might be more inclined to "bring it" if they were forced to do something out of their comfort zone. Don't you think Joe Haden might want to blow by another cornerback to just know what it feels like? Wouldn't Cam Newton want to pick off a pass, just once, to stick it to all the guys who've ever picked him off?
4 Keep the Game, Eliminate the Rules
In the same vein as the last idea, but with a bit of a twist. This game is usually boring not only because of the disinterest from the players, but also because without effort, tackling and speed, football in-and-of-itself becomes fundamentally boring. If the players invited to the Pro Bowl aren't going to go all out, why not switch things up a bit? Allow forward laterals. Let offensive linemen run downfield as eligible receivers. When the defense picks off a pass, they themselves are allowed to act as an offense and throw the ball downfield.
Basically, toss everything out the window and revert back to some ridiculous version of backyard football that, at the very least, will bring out some youthful enthusiasm out of these players.
3 Pro Bowl Flag Football "Tournament"
If you want players to put it on the line in a game that means nothing in the standings, the simplest way to motivate them is to make it mean something. A Pro Bowl Tournament pitting any number of smaller, 7-on-7 teams in a tournament format that is capped off with a championship trophy, an MVP award, and a dollar amount to be donated to the team's charity of choice. Sure, all of this sounds fairly mundane and repetitive, but 7-on-7 flag football means that players don't have to hit or get hit, and the competitiveness of players will come out more in a day-long event rather than one standard 60 minutes of football.
2 "3rd Place Game"
What's the one thing people wish they had in the lead up to Super Bowl Sunday? More football - more real football, to be precise.
The NFL prides itself on being innovative, to a certain extent - why not be innovative in having the first ever professional "bronze medal" game between the losers of the Championship games. Granted, there would have to be something in it for both sides to get up for a game to decide who finishes third - this right after losing a chance to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy - but it would at least satisfy the appetites of football starved NFL fans. Besides, since when has the NFL chosen it's players over their fans (fans translates to "money" in this scenario, of course).
1 Skills Competition
At the end of the day, this might be the only logical and feasible replacement for the NFL Pro Bowl. Players won't necessarily feel the need to brag about a Pro Bowl victory - but they will definitely get in the ear of their opponents in a 40-yard dash race, or an accuracy competition, or any other skills-based events the league can put their players through on Pro Bowl Sunday. This can also be made somewhat interactive, by allowing fans to enter into contests to help run the events or even participate in certain aspects of the skills competition. The competition would also involve some unusual challenges...
Anyone who disagrees that a race between an offensive lineman and a nose-tackle is much more interesting than watching the two barely hit each other in a Pro Bowl game clearly has no sense of humor.