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Consider The Dreadful Possibility That You Will Miss The Pro Bowl When It’s Gone

during the 2015 Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 25, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Fantasies are funny things, in that for the most part their anticipation is greater than their fulfillment can ever match, and their fulfillment actually brings something unimaginably worse.

Which leads us, as you knew it would, to the latest rumor surrounding that most cancel-worthy of entertainment vehicles, the Pro Bowl. According to that cheap tease Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, no less a source than Roger Goodell said, and we quote, “The game itself doesn’t work. We need to find another way to celebrate the players.”

Now given that Goodell is attending the International Den Of Thieves Symposi … err, the Spring League Meeting in Atlanta, any soundbite comes with its own disclaimer, known to veterans of the craft as the “My Ass, You Say” clause. Goodell rarely comes out of his bunker, and then only to deny well-reported things like owner dissatisfaction with Danny Snyder or Stan Kroenke settlement taxes, and we all roll our eyes, wishing we hadn’t so blithely wasted even that small a fraction of our remaining life spans. But he also knows that he can’t hold the audience long without a little candy to mix in with the glass shards, so Monday he played the Death To The Pro Bowl card. Not to actually bury it, but to throw a few handfuls of dirt on its still well-built boots.

Before you imagine that the NFL has finally acknowledged the fact that it willingly puts on a form of entertainment that shames even its unshameable self, keep in mind that Goodell has hinted at this before without actually delivering eradication. He knows that the players, the teams, and all right-thinking civilians regard the Pro Bowl as a backed-up septic tank in the front yard of a mansion. But he also knows that those few million recidivists who still watch the Pro Bowl must be given four hours of equivalent programming, and there’s where your fantasizing ends.

So when Rapoport reports that the owners are “discussing the Pro Bowl and ways to improve it” and includes the possibility of getting rid of it, he has both teased and disappointed us. You see, while the owners are looking for ways to “showcase the players,” they are actually interested only in creating an alternative tool for monetization when all we want as consumers and citizens is Goodell walking to a podium and saying, “Well, we killed the bastard. You’re welcome for the four hours we just returned to your life.”

What he actually fears, of course, is that we’ll just take back the four hours ourselves before he has a chance to get credit for returning them, let alone replace it with something that could actually be more repellent. He wants to be the guy who says, “Look what I did for you” before dropping news of a Law & Order football spinoff, a Hard Knocks spring version or a full-on players’ variety show: “And now let’s go back to Rebel Wilson and Tom Brady as they show us how Jimmy Garoppolo juggles these puppies while lifting this equipment trunk with only his eyebrows.”

In other words, there may very well be ideas even worse than the Pro Bowl, and when they are conceived, the NFL will be the ones to deliver them. Because while the endless search for vehicles inside which to stick Lily from AT&T may result in the end of the worst athletic endeavor this side of Battle Of The Network Stars, they are less interested in the show than they are the possibility of more Lily ads. 

You know how this all ends: with you missing the Pro Bowl because you made the mistake of expecting better entertainment from the people who kept giving you the Pro Bowl.