Let’s fix the pro bowl

Story by Andy Hildebrand, Sports Editor

I planned on starting this week’s column by talking about how much I hated watching the Pro Bowl. I was going to rant about how little effort the players put in and how it’s by far the worst major all-star game in professional sports.

Then something happened. Game day rolled around, and I completely forgot about it. I didn’t even watch.

In many ways, that’s fitting for an all-star game that’s become more of a chore than a showcase of the league’s talent. How can the country’s most popular league have such a lackluster all-star weekend while the MLB’s and NBA’s games are such a success?

Part of it comes down to timing. Unlike the NFL, these two all-star games split their respective seasons in half. Fans are still buying into their teams, and the players are still fresh and focused.

In the NFL, the offseason has already begun and fans are really only looking toward the Super Bowl.

Because football is much more violent though, it would be hard to justify playing an actual football game be- cause of the threat of injury. That’s why the commissioner’s office needs to get creative with the game.

There’s already been talk about lengthening the schedule to 18 games. If that happens, it would be the perfect time to move the Pro Bowl to mid-season.

Let it take place after week nine, giving teams an extra bye week in a more grueling season.

Coaches and players alike won’t want to risk injury in an actual foot- ball game though. That’s why we need to cut out the hitting completely.

Instead, let’s feature a passing based flag football game.

I can already hear you all barking in pro- test. How can we possibly make that worth watching? Settle down and hear me out.

First, let’s do a draft. Every Mad- den player ever knows how unbeliev- ably captivating a fantasy draft is. The NHL and NBA have both done it with incredible success, and it can work in football.

Let each of the quarterbacks captain a team. Then, pool all the skill position players (wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, cornerbacks, safeties, and linebackers) and let each quarterback pick his team one player at a time, starting with the quarter- back that received the least amount of votes and ending with the quarterback who garnered the most.

I’d love to see Aaron Rodgers draft Calvin Johnson with his first pick and proceed to dissect any defense that crosses their path. It would be wildly entertaining and you know it.

This would happen Friday night of all-star weekend. Then on Saturday, the tournament starts.

Split the teams by AFC quarter- backs and NFC quarterbacks and play the first two rounds. The champion- ship round would take place Sunday night as the main event.

Hitting is already blindingly absent from the Pro Bowl, so you might as well take it out completely. People won’t be disappointed because they won’t be expecting to see it anymore. Plus, this would make moving the game to mid-season feasible.

Let’s showcase the league’s incredible speed. Just think of all the trick plays they could draw up in the dirt. Add in some high scoring and you’ve got a pretty entertaining event.

So how do we recognize the pro bowlers who don’t happen to be skill players? This is a little trickier.

The most overwhelming quality about NFL linemen is their strength. Why not find out who’s the strongest man in the league?

Let’s reboot the World’s Strongest Man contest and put an NFL spin on it. Football themed strength tests could be incredibly entertaining if done right. The finals would fit snugly after Saturday’s flag football semifinals.

Another fantastic event for the linemen would be an eating contest. Maybe it would be pie, maybe hot dogs, but certainly something they could eat an awful lot of.

What makes the most sense is to pick a traditional dish from the host city of the Super Bowl. For example, if the game was in Dallas, the linemen would see who could eat the most steak. Tell me you wouldn’t love to see how much steak Josh Sitton can eat. It may be sil- ly, but it would be a pretty fun event.

We don’t want to leave out the kickers though. They’ve earned their spot too. I propose gathering the kick- ers and randomly drawing an order. Then, they play a game of H-O-R-S-E. They can kick the ball from anywhere in the stadium, with any technique they want. The last kicker standing is named the league’s best. That could get pretty interesting if you ask me.

So there you have it. I’ve fixed the Pro Bowl. Somebody get Roger Goodell on the phone.