Whether it’s the MLB, NBA, NASCAR, NHL, or the NFL — a trend amongst major American sport teams to hold an all-star game at the end of each season has emerged. However, its popularity is declining which forces fans to ask the question: should the games continue to be a thing?
With another lackluster NFL Pro Bowl coming to an end, and the NBA All-Star teams being selected, the events that showcase the best athletes are still a priority for the leagues to host; even though fans like to loudly and publically hate on these games in general. Players don’t want to play in them, yet fans can’t stop tuning in and making the NFL Pro Bowl the most popular all-star event.
In 2011, the Pro Bowl drew an average audience of 20.6 million viewers — all of which probably spent majority of their time complaining about it on social networking sites. In 2012, it drew 12.5 million viewers and in 2016 it pulled 7.1 million viewers. The ratings are quickly declining, but they still beat the 6.1 million viewers the second most popular All-Star event received, the MLB All-Star game.
If players are lucky enough to be one of the 88 players selected to the game, then many of them are too worried about their careers to play a competitive game, if they play at all. Last year, 26 players that were selected chose not to play in the meaningless game and 29 the year before that. Because of these safety concerns by players, the NFL implemented rule changes making the All-Star game the furthest from its regular-season form.
In 2014, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell went on the record of saying that he didn’t like the Pro Bowl because it’s very expensive and isn’t a ton of value to the NFL.
“To be honest with you, I was completely comfortable with eliminating it until I talked to the players, and they said they loved it and they want to be there,” Goodell said.
It’s so hard for fans to get excited about the game when the commissioner doesn’t show interest in trying to improve it. Players do love the game, however the Pro Bowl is supposed to showcase the best talent at every position, but those players are the ones who are too concerned about the longevity of their careers to play in a meaningless game that their bosses don’t want to spend money to host.
One reason the Pro Bowl is still the most popular event of its kind is because of its deep tradition that goes back to 1951, years before the Super Bowl was created. It gives fans the opportunity to watch their favorite players and teams play one last time before the long offseason officially begins and for the league to test potential rule changes. For many die hard fans, they love the event because it gives them a chance to see a different side of these athletes.
No matter how much fans claim to hate the game, it’s still one of the favorite traditions in American sports and we can count on them being around for a long time. League officials have been trying to develop new ideas to make these events more entertaining for fans, but until players receive an incentive for playing, expect to see the same old game in the years to come.