Joe Knows

When faced with a situation in which I have to decide whether to fish or cut bait, I subscribe to theory put forth by the patriarch of the Harrison family of Pawn Stars fame.

A matter-of-fact 71-year-old with a sharp tongue, the “Old Man,” as he is referred to affectionately, has one basic philosophy.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is broke, it ain’t worth fixing. So be a man.”

Perhaps the NFL would be wise if it adopted this attitude in its treatment of the Pro Bowl because football’s all-star game is obviously broken.

It has become a national punch line due to its selection process, its low entertainment quality, its lack of anything resembling defense and most notoriously, its inability to entice the league’s best players to attend.

This season’s game, in which the NFC defeated the AFC team 62-35, had 16 players decline invitations due to injury, had another 15 ineligible due to their participation in the Super Bowl and numerous others decide to not make the trip to Honolulu.

While the absence of so many players does create a nice opportunity for others, most notably up-and-comers — a number of rookies participated Sunday — it leaves the game with a noticeable lack of star-power.

This year, all three of the NFC’s original choices at quarterback—Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III—missed the game with injuries, and, perhaps league’s most recognizable face, Tom Brady, has backed out of the game every year since 2005.

Not surprisingly, many of Aloha Stadium’s 50,000 seats were empty after a flash flood warning pushed back the starting time by 30 minutes.

But the game hasn’t always been such a snoozer.

In fact the game wasn’t always held within a Hail Mary throw from Honolulu’s white sand beaches and tiki bars either. And the players didn’t treat it like it was interrupting a cushy vacation.

In 1980, Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood played in the game after playing the entire playoffs, including the Super Bowl, with a broken leg.

Instead, we’re left with a game that is better suited for flags instead of pads.

And it hasn’t gone unnoticed either.

After last season’s Pro Bowl, commissioner Roger Goodell floated the idea of eliminating the game, saying, “We are going to either have to improve the quality of what we are doing in the Pro Bowl or consider other changes, or even consider eliminating the game.”

Goodell could start by eliminating some of the rules that have incentivized apathy, by allowing blitzing, pre-snap motion and rushing the kicker.

But considering this could compromise the safety of the league’s best players, something Goodell has taken up as his signature issue, there probably aren’t going be significant changes to how the game itself is played.

It just isn’t worth fixing.

 

JOE CUNEO

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