As indicated by my poll question earlier today, I don't think the Pro Bowl does the job it's intended to. I consider the Pro Bowl to be the NFL's all-star event, and while it does have one thing right - it takes place at the end of the season - it has so much else wrong with it that is isn't a proper celebration of the NFL's best players.
But why not? The first thing is that while it takes place at the end of the season, by that point most of the best players are injured and beat-up over the course of a sixteen-game season and unable, via injury or Super Bowl, to play another game. As such, enough alternates are named to play a game that half of the NFL is a Pro Bowler, watering down the achievement.
So what's the first step in making the Pro Bowl a true all-star celebration? Don't make the game the be-all end-all of it.
The reasoning behind taking the "game" out of the Pro Bowl is twofold. First, the game requires full 53-man rosters, and it's nearly a guarantee that at least two players from every position will need to be replaced by the time the game is actually played. It's a game that is on par with the NHL All-Star game in terms of physicality, yet like the NHL All-Star game, is completely devoid of hard hitting and defense, so an all-star game with slightly lesser players and a failure to really play half the game makes the NFL all-star game less about the game of football and more a complete sideshow. Let's tackle the first part of this first - the watering down of the achievement.
The solution? Instead of solely being a game, the Pro Bowl should celebrate those players named to its ranks, as opposed to merely a roster of players for a meaningless game. Have the game if you wish, but don't name a player a Pro Bowler just so he can play in a game. There are Pro Bowlers, and there are players that play in a game - that's why All-Pros have had to be named.
Other all-star games are centered around the game, and that's fine - but none of them have the injury concerns and general avoidance of the game to the degree that the NFL has. An All-Star is supposed to represent the best of the best - the NHL, NBA and MLB all reflect this to varying degrees (within the confines of having their event midway through the season), but the NFL, which possibly could reflect it perfectly, is just unable to with the game as the focus.
We'll get into the game itself tomorrow, but for now, how do you think Pro-Bowlers should be named - name the Pro Bowlers, or continue to tack on the All-Pro designation?