The Pro Bowl, once one of the most highly anticipated sporting events following the Super Bowl, has fallen deep into an unrelenting pit of irrelevancy.
The Pro Bowl, an NFL sporting event consisting of two teams made up of the best stars the league has to offer, is faltering.
Over the past decade, Pro Bowl viewership has fallen significantly. The 2022 Pro Bowl pulled in just north of 6-million total viewers, the lowest total viewership since 2006.
Critics believe that if significant changes are not made to the Pro Bowl, those changes including location, time, rules and more, it will become too irrelevant to be worth airing on national television.
While the opinions from critics are something to watch out for, it’s no secret the NFL seems to be doing something right when it comes to all-star matchups, as the 6.7-million viewers for the 2022 Pro Bowl beat out the NBA and NHL All-Star games in terms of viewership. Then again, the diminishing viewership of all-star matchups is not an issue isolated to the NFL.
While the 6.7-million total is low relative to past NFL Pro Bowls, it still stands well enough on its own to garner international broadcasting.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saw the poor quality of the Pro Bowl as a chance to improve and better what had the potential to be one of the most highly anticipated sporting events in the U.S.
“We’re either going to have to improve the quality of what we’re doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even consider eliminating the game if that’s the kind of quality game we’re going to provide,” Goodell said, as reported by ESPN in 2012.
Considering that it has been 10 years since that statement was made, it’s clear the NFL is in no rush to make drastic changes from an entertainment perspective.
The criticisms can be heard from big name NFL personalities such as Hall of Fame tight end and FOX Sports personality Shannon Sharpe, who took to Twitter to blast players for not tackling.
“R they not tackling anymore in the Pro Bowl? I’m sorry but this isn’t football. I’ve played in this gm numerous times and I LOVE the NFL, but this is embarrassing,” Sharpe said via Twitter after this year’s Pro Bowl.
Sharpe’s tweet has been liked over 30,000 times, garnering over 2,819 retweets along with it. Thus, it’s fair to say that this is a relatively popular opinion regarding the game’s integrity.
The reasons behind the Pro Bowl’s low level of entertainment relative to other NFL matchups is obvious; there are no stakes attached, and star players have no desire of risking a serious injury just prior to free agency.
These concerns aren’t unwarranted either, with Robert Ewards suffering arguably the worst injury in Pro Bowl history.
Edwards, a running back selected in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft by the New England Patriots, was a highly anticipated star on the New England roster before suffering a serious injury that threatened his ability to walk in the 1999 Pro Bowl.
Edwards would never play another NFL game with New England following the injury.
While the sample size is small, there have been enough Pro Bowl injuries to discourage players from tackling altogether, leading to Sharpe’s criticisms of this year’s Pro Bowl.
Drastic changes are clearly needed to return the Pro Bowl to its once strong importance to NFL fans across the world. If the NFL continues to push the Pro Bowl lower on their priority list, the game could be discontinued altogether.