NFL16: Putting the ‘Pro’ Back in the Bowl

13 Jan

Athletic exhibitions: They’ve always been a bit fragile. ¿Por qué?

.....ProBowl.Rudolph.2.17.13.USMC.D.CottonAll Star games, Pro Bowls, Harlem Globetrotters, dunk contests, whatever they’re doing in hockey this year, they’re all born of the coupling of profit & play where the action is most often measured with the result, fun as it can be, pure ephemeralia.

The win-loss won’t go towards a championship tally and then the statistics don’t figure in a team or player’s official totals. That’s not all bad if the particular player tends to wilt under the brighter lights.

Baseball’s version has always been the best. Today that’s only by default.

Former Commissioner and Hall of Famer, Allan “Bud” Selig threw it open to the marketing madmen & women who’ve turned it into a kid’s carnival of sorts, where the muscled Home Run Derby, vestige of the high steroid era (1988-2012), has supplanted the exhibition-game itself as the main event of the 5-day affair.

But it’s long history (1933) does shine with some memorable moments.

....ProBowl.2.17.13.DR.Cotton.thm.USMC.FeltonThe most notable All-Star moments being Carl “King” Hubbell’s (NYG) famous set-down (SO) of five consecutive American League stalwarts in 1934’s edition (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons & Cronin), Pete Rose’s home-plate “(collision) heard round the (baseball) world” with off-field friend Ray Fosse in the 1970 classic and Bo Jackson’s all-around MVP performance in the ‘89 July jamboree.

The NFL’s version, the Pro Bowl (1.31.16, Honolulu, ESPN, 3pm EST), while having displayed it’s share of memorable battles and terrific individual outputs over the decades has a somewhat less colorful catalog.

That state was predictable from the get-go in that the game is held post regular season when fans and players alike have had their fill of football and baseball is beginning to warm-up in southern climes.

The contest had muddled along, giving players, coaches and families a fun winter get-away and fans a casual Sunday afternoon of viewing. Expectations real.

....ProBowl.Fargo.Gonzalez.Vitale..2.13.5.USN.McGinley.thmBut that wasn’t enough for today’s non-sporting market executive who will squeeze dimes like Mr. Whipple used to lovingly squeeze Charmin® toilet rolls.

Through the fiddling of NFL office and Player Assoc‘n personnel, the exhibition has devolved into a spiritless, poorly organized walk-through that has little meaning for anybody, except a handful of dime collectors.

If it continues down this dreary pathway where former players (Rice – Irvin) choose up sides like an ego-laden pick-up game, it might just as well die a certain death with a modicum of dignity rather than continue along brain-dead, as it were, on rickety life-support. In its present state, if the Pro Bowl were to vanish tomorrow the news would barely make a ripple in the media pond.

To halt the Pro Bowl‘s steady decline, 3 restoration points are key:

1) Post-Super Bowl play-date

....ProBowl.Samuels.Albright.Keating.USDD.J.Foehl.thm.2.10.8For most of this decade the game has been sandwiched in that 2-week period between Conference championships and the Super Bowl. Doing so of course excludes any reps from the two best teams. This has to change. Fans & marketers both want to celebrate in the champion’s victory and the Pro Bowl is (was) a highlighter.

While neither of the Super squads may include the regular MVP or DPOY, both are certain to be laden with All-Pro players & celebs whose championship status is sorely missed at the big exhibition, making it’s substance ebb lower.

2) Restore official status: AFC v. NFC

As it stood, exhibitions didn’t factor into stat lines or W-L but they were official exhibitions. That’s something. Goes to substance and quality of product.

Now it’s just a muscled sandlot set-up (no conferences) with low loyalty and potential player cliques that fans will unlikely ever warm to. A degree of serious-ness must be restored or the few fans still watching will seriously stop.

3) Restore uniform continuity

Designs by Nike that change with the wind don’t build the NFL brand. Even the kids, their target-market, tire of too much trend while their big brothers and the neighborhoods only snicker at the mindless consumerism.

Logos & uniforms never top the list of League issues, but maybe they should this year, or somewhere near. It’s the merchandise that fans purchase and uniforms identified-with on TV that bind them to their teams and to the sport during and after the season’s play has ended.

.....macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.2011.wcSteven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credit: ProBowl, wc, Rudolph, 1.27.13, USAF, M.Holzworth; ProBowl, Rudolph, wc, 2.17.13, D.Cotton, USMC; ProBowl, wc, Felton, 2.17.13, D.Cotton; ProBowl, wc, Fargo-Gonzalez-Vitale, 2.13.5, USN, McGinley; ProBowl, wc, Samuels-Albright-Keating, J.Foehl, DoD, 2.10.8; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, 2011, wc.cca.
Posted: 1.13.16 @ 2:35pm, edit 4:21 EST; Copyright © 2016

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