A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH

The NFL moves the Pro Bowl to Orlando but this event needs more tweaking

                                                            By Peter Schwartz

Let’s not sugarcoat it….the Pro Bowl sucks!

It’s the worst football game played anywhere in North America and it’s not even close. I’ll show you pee-wee games involving kids that don’t know what they’re doing that are more entertaining. You can find flag football games at the neighborhood field that has more physical contact that the crap the NFL now trots out the week before the Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, the NFL took a step in the right direction when it comes to the game that not many people admit to watching but it’s clear that people are because we hear how bad it is. The Pro Bowl has been relocated from Hawaii to Camping World Stadium (formerly the Citrus Bowl) in Orlando, Florida and will take place on January 29th, the week in-between the Championship Games and the Super Bowl.

Also, the NFL is doing away with the Pro Bowl Fantasy draft so the game is returning to the AFC vs. NFC format.

I think this is a step in the right direction. Playing the game in Hawaii had run its course. Let’s face it…how many football fans, looking for a football themed vacation, are really schlepping to Hawaii? Not many but there could be plenty who would love to go see the game in Orlando and combine it with other touristy things that might be connected to another media company.

What the NFL is also doing with the Pro Bowl is making it part of a football celebration at multiple levels. The practices during Super Bowl week in Orlando will be conducted alongside youth events and competitions. The NFL will also invite the youth or high school coaches of the players in the Pro Bowl. And USA Football will hold their annual National Conference at the Pro Bowl.

I think all of this will help what has really turned into an embarrassing game for the NFL in recent years. It’s definitely a step in the right direction but it doesn’t go far enough in my opinion. There’s been so much debate in recent years as to what to do with the Pro Bowl and most people think it should be done away with.

I don’t think the Pro Bowl should be cancelled because I think the exhibition is a chance for the NFL to pump their chests about the great game of football and how it appeals to men and women and boys and girls of all ages all over the country. Not everyone has the privilege or financial ability to go to a Super Bowl or even a Pro Bowl when it was in Hawaii.

Now that it’s going to be in Orlando for the foreseeable future, football fans could very well plan a trip far enough in advance to make it work. What needs to happen now is to give those fans a real reason to book a flight to Orlando and it’s not to see 350 pound lineman moving out of the way so a running back can scamper 80 yards for a touchdown.

I have a plan that can fix the Pro Bowl.

Make it a flag football game. Since most people refer to the Pro Bowl as a flag football game in a negative way, let’s turn that around. Let’s make the game a fun flag football game and publicize the kind of football that many adults and fans are playing around the country. The NFL and USA Football both recognize flag football and it’s a game that many parents want their kids to play before trying tackle football.

Include some celebrities. We see this with Major League Baseball and how they have a celebrity softball game as part of their annual All-Star game festivities. When I was working in the Arena Football League years ago, they had a celebrity flag football game as part of ArenaBowl weekend and I thought it was a great idea. The NFL should add five celebrities to each Pro Bowl team and maybe make two of them captains.

Get the youth players involved. What the NFL could do is have youth football teams from the Orlando area take part in the Pro Bowl festivities by playing some games at either the stadium or perhaps another venue nearby. What the NFL could also do is invite some teams from around the country or have teams apply to come at their own cost. If you told parents that their kids could play a youth football game at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, they would find a way to go. We’re talking about marketing the sport to kids.

It’s all about the fans. I’ve been fortunate to go to eight Super Bowls in my life as both a fan and as a reporter. One of the really cool events during Super Bowl week is “The NFL Experience” which is a fan fest that features many interactive attractions, autograph opportunities, and exhibits. The NFL could do the same thing, and then some, with the Pro Bowl.   Every player in the Pro Bowl should attend as well as many other players in the league.

The Pro Bowl may never be perfect and certainly could never be a “real” NFL game, but I think my plan can make it an event that hardcore football fans would love to go to. It could also be an event that could create memories for kids that would last a lifetime.

The Pro Bowl in Orlando could certainly be the happiest place for a football fan on earth!

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