So I was on the phone with my friend Joe Posnanski today, and we were talking about how the Home Run Derby the night before the All-Star Game is now way more popular than the All-Star Game itself.
Joe and the great Michael Schur take it upon themselves to fix the All-Star Game in an upcoming episode of The Poscast, a podcast you should most definitely listen to if you want to listen to two of America’s smartest and funniest people talk about baseball and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, sometimes in that order.
Anyway, in the 10 seconds that it took Joe to explain how he and Mike fixed the All-Star Game — you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out — I figured out how to fix the Pro Bowl.
Look, nobody cares about the Pro Bowl. NFL players care about MAKING the Pro Bowl — it’s a huge honor, and most players have Pro Bowl bonuses written into their contracts. But nobody cares about the game itself. Players come up with random injuries to get out of playing (“Tom Brady announced today that he will miss the Pro Bowl with a Grade 3 paper cut”). Coaches treat it like a charity flag-football game (except for Bill Belichick, of course — read down to the Tony Gonzalez story). TV ratings have declined for six years in a row. The game still gets decent ratings, but anybody who watches the Pro Bowl all the way to the end is by definition way too interested in football. Or has money on the game, which is its own problem.
They have started a skills competition before the Pro Bowl, maybe in hopes of getting some of the shine of the Home Run Derby or the NBA’s dunk contest. But the Skills Showdown features stuff like a dodgeball game and a relay race. Nobody cares about those, either. And the NFL has the perfect skills competition sitting right in front of them.
Here’s how to fix the Pro Bowl:
Turn it into Punt, Pass and Kick.
You’ve seen Punt, Pass and Kick. They’ve been doing it since 1961 as a showcase for young people to show off their football skills. It couldn’t be simpler: You punt, you pass, you kick, they add up the distances, the highest score wins. Sometimes they’ll do it at halftime of an NFL game, and often it’s better than the game. It’s so cool to see some 60-pound third-grader fire a spiral halfway down the field. It’s also a great illustration of how kids get their growth spurts at different times, as you know if you’ve seen Andy Reid doing Punt, Pass and Kick at 13.
So bring all the Pro Bowlers together and let them have at it. Group them by position, and have the positional winners meet in the finals. Tell me you wouldn’t watch J.J. Watt try to throw a spiral down that little tape they string down the middle of the field. Tell me you wouldn’t watch Drew Brees get ticked off after shanking a punt. No injuries. Immense trash-talking potential. TV gold.
The Pro Bowl itself? Cancel it. Have a nice dinner, hand out the bonus checks and send everybody home. Except for the Punt, Pass and Kick winner. He goes to Disney World.