NFL column: Pro Bowl belongs in Hawaii, post Super Bowl
By MIKE LOPRESTI
It's Pro Bowl weekend. When's the party start?
Oh, right. That's next weekend. It's a little confusing because the Pro Bowl has a new site, new location and new job - warm-up act for the Super Bowl.
This has become a matter of some debate, mostly among the players who realize an all-expenses trip to Hawaii ain't half bad in January. But at least the issue has outsiders talking about the Pro Bowl. Not an easy thing to do. Most years, the event ranks about even in water cooler conversation with the elections in Albania.
Who, for example, won last year?
It's somewhere here in the NFL book. . . . let's see . . . ah, yes . . . the NFC 30-21. The conference leads the all-time series 20-19. Fewer Americans would know that than know the name of the undersecretary of agriculture.
Might this game be a lost cause? Yes, and no.
There's nothing wrong with special rewards and honors for guys who beat in each other's heads for six months.
"You understand," Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis noted, "these times will never be again."
No, the only problem with the Pro Bowl is when they actually get around to playing it.
Applaud the stars who make the rosters? Certainly.
But actually watch the game? Now you're going too far.
Still, it is a necessary exercise, because it identifies the best of the best. And the NFL tried a new formula this year.
It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Just like Jay Leno at 10 p.m.
Move the Pro Bowl to the Sunday before the Super Bowl. Put it in the same city, the same stadium. Build it that way and they will come - players, customers, viewers, media.
Well, not all the players, it turned out. Between the 14 from the Super Bowl teams - who might attend but not participate - and 16 who bailed because they said they were injured, this Pro Bowl started to resemble a theater with the fire alarm going off.
Consider the AFC quarterbacking corps. Never mind Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Philip Rivers. Here come Matt Schaub, Vince Young and David Garrard.
Maybe it isn't the usual Hawaii. Waikiki is five time zones away. But since when is Miami a lousy place to spend a few days in the winter?
"A vacation is a vacation," New England's Vince Wilfork was saying.
Hold it a second. A vacation?
Sure. But imagine the gasps in baseball if an All-Star said that. Burned by the furor over the 2002 tie, Bud Selig put World Series home field advantage on the table to stoke the fires.
How many would care if the Pro Bowl ends in a tie? How many would notice? All that can be dangled in front of the players to inspire competition is a bigger check for the winners - $45,000 compared to $22,500.
You can understand what the NFL has in mind, trying to catch the Super Bowl wave. But the league never likes to look disheveled - from its uniforms to its end zone celebrations. There is definite untidiness in what the Indianapolis Pro Bowlers considered having to do. Practice Sunday, fly to Miami, with their main duty - as Reggie Wayne mentioned - "giving the AFC team a good pep talk." Fly back home. Return to Miami the next day with their teammates.
Such logistical quirks make this setup a little too weird. A permanent return to the islands, and the week after the Super Bowl, might be in order.
That's for the NFL to decide. The next two are already scheduled for Honolulu. Great idea, especially for 2012. The Super Bowl that year is in Indianapolis.
Hmmmm . . . let's see . . . as a Pro Bowl reward, would you rather go to Indianapolis or Hawaii in late January?
Take your time.