USA TODAY Sports
The NBA All Star Weekend is underway and it's events schedule should be a lesson to Roger Goodell and the NFL on how to save the Pro Bowl.
In any sport, the annual All Star game isn't really taken very seriously. It's an honor to be named to the teams but the game itself is pretty much a joke.
For the NBA, which is in the middle of their All Star Weekend, it's no different. But what sets the NBA apart is their schedule of events outside of the actual game. It's call "All Star Weekend" because is an entire weekend of festivities that lead up to the All Star game.
Here is a taste of what their events calendar entails:
- Basketball Hall of Fame announcement
- All-Star Celebrity Game
- Rising Stars Challenge
- D-League All Star Game with Dunk contest
- All Stars Challenges: Shooting Stars, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, and Slam Dunk competition.
- Pregame Concert
- All Star Game
The NBA treats All Star Weekend like a holiday which celebrates its best players and gives the fans plenty to watch. The NFL treats the game like an obligation. I fully understand that the NBA is not a violent sport like the NFL and that limits the number of ways they can be alike.
With that in mind, let's examine this list of events and see which the NFL could easily consider adopting for their "Pro Bowl weekend".
Hall of Fame announcement - That would certainly be very possible. It would only require bumping up their current announcement schedule a week. They currently make the announcement the day before the Super Bowl. This would have it the day before the Pro Bowl so it could be part of the Pro Bowl party. Why the heck not?
As an added bonus, they should make the announcement at a gala dinner with the players in attendance to applaud the careers of these former NFL greats. After all, making the Pro Bowl is an accolade when deciding if a player is worthy of the Hall of Fame. Then have montages of each Pro Bowl player's accomplishments during the season that earned them a spot on the team. Then present then with little trophies like the NFL awards show.
All Star Celebrity Game - That would be easy enough. It would be a flag football game, of couse. It wouldn't even have to include active NFL players. All celebrities and former NFL players should make it interesting enough. Throw in a couple NFL analysts would make it even more interesting. Better than watching them in pleats on plastic walking through plays in the studio.
Rising Stars Challenge - This one might not work as a game but a competition of some kind would be fun to watch.
D-League All Star game - The NFL doesn't have a D-league so this one wouldn't work. Maybe when there was still an NFL Europe it would have worked.
All Stars Challenges There was a time when the Pro Bowl had a skills competition. I remember it being my favorite part and I know a great many others who agree. Getting rid of that skills competition was a huge mistake. This is the most important addition I see. Just a fun day of the Pro Bowl quarterbacks throwing at moving targets and such. Then some other position groups running obstacle courses. There is a college All Star challenge each year that is much like this. They mix it up too, having players at different positions work together as a team. A fun idea might be to have players do some skills at positions they don't play. For instance see which non-QB has the best passing skills.
Pregame Concert - The Pro Bowl has a band there to perform. I guess that's something. I would add to it and have a band there to perform on the previous day between events just to liven it up. It's all about treating the fans.
All Star Game - It would all culminate in the game itself just as the NBA does. By then fans have enjoyed all the festivities and felt like have gotten to know the NFL's best players a lot more and look forward to a meaningless game in which they hardly try.
Last year the only thing that had players actually putting in an effort was the fear of losing the game altogether. Now the commissioner along with the players need to improve the whole experience to give the fans a reason to want it to remain.