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The NFL Will “Reimagine” A Virtual Pro Bowl. Dear God.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looks on before Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

COVID has finally paid back a bit of the debt it has incurred upon our collective psyches, and you’ll all be pleased to know that this is one of those rare moments when a national scourge is overwhelmed by a global one, namely this: The National Taking Occasional Stabs At Presenting Football League has placed the Pro Bowl into stasis.

This is not only the first official recognition that the event itself is as disposable as ankle wraps, but it may help clear some detritus out of the January schedule so that the regular season might be spread out into 2021 to cover the raft of postponements that have begun to accumulate in Roger Goodell’s garage.

Of course, the NFL release described the cancelation as “a reimagining,” proving that if all the games are eventually obliterated, the league will still have the gibberish market cornered, to wit:

“The league will work closely with the NFLPA and other partners to create a variety of engaging activities to replace the Pro Bowl game this season. This virtual recognition of the season’s finest players will provide fans the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of their favorite stars.”

The mind reels in brain-bubbling horror at how these human doorstops will “reimagine” the most tedious and despised sporting event we have, and what “engaging activities” they think they can produce that would be preferable to anything up to and including a fire in your garage. If you take standard skin-flaying network fare like The Bachelorette, Survivor: Tallahassee and NBC’s new addiction to tired old game shows, add in NFL Films’ mountain of old Football Follies and new A Football Life hagiographies, and NFL Network’s wall-to-wall NFL Networking, that’s your reimagining. It will be almost indescribably awful. 

But there will still be Pro Bowl teams. Of course there will. Again, Leaguespeak:

“The full Pro Bowl rosters will be revealed in December, where the players are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts as one-third toward determining the 88 All-Star players who are selected to the Pro Bowl roster.” 

And lord only knows what an honor it is to be named to play in a game that will never happen. Frankly, it sounds like something the XFL would do, and those people would do anything.

All the better, this will be the first Pro Bowl in decades in which those voted to the teams will not have to concoct injuries to opt out of the game. If nothing else, it will show that the players love the Pro Bowl right up until the announcement of who made it and who didn’t is over, and then they can walk past it and spit on it as though it were just a burning pile of leaves.

Which it would have to radically improve to reach, fun-wise.

Bad news, though: The 2022 version is scheduled for Las Vegas, which means that the Pro Bowl isn’t being killed so that the nation might live, but merely placed into a yearlong coma. Which means that this season’s “reimagining” will be grafted onto the old boring thing a year later, in a place that invented virtual long before the technology existed to make everything into studio quality make-believe. Indeed, the Defector office floated suggestions like hot potato, egg toss, wheelbarrow races, high-stakes duck-duck-goose, and a return of the quarterback skill competition, only this time all the quarterback pixels will be throwing flaming footballs through the roaring maws of gigantic minotaurs 500 yards away before being catastrophically injured by pretend linebackers with spiked shoulder pads and glowing red eyes. I mean, reimagining doesn’t mean ignoring reality.

In sum, the Pro Bowl cannot die, but it definitely caught the virus. And until the day comes when this rancid heap of animal droppings returns, we’ll just have to make do with the Jets as a reminder that none of this would have happened if we’d just have worn the damned masks.