The NFL knew it had a 'problem' with the Pro Bowl. That's why we had a new format this year, various rules changes and different 'sellable' neon team colors to give the whole thing a new look.
I never had an issue with the game. I was also fully aware that this was a facsimile of real football and it's just a chance to have one last look at your favorite players before you put them in mental storage until next season. The league likes it during Super Bowl bye week to capitalize on reflex Sunday night television viewing. While I still prefer it after the Super Bowl as an after dinner mint to the season, it's hard to argue with ratings success.
I also thought it was nice to have the Super Bowl participants in the game and virtually the entire national media in Hawaii to kick off the off season. But that's just me.
The basic challenge with the game is that you can't play this sport properly in an all star situation. Not even close. Baseball is the one sport in which a group of players can get together and play the game hard and correctly with almost as much strategy (other than not wanting to waste pitchers) as a regular season situation. Basketball is somewhere in the middle. And don't get me started on hockey.
But this year's Pro Bowl was better than most, won by Team Rice 22-21 over Team Sanders. The players and coaches I talked to really liked the spirit around their teams and felt like it was a lot more competitive than past years.
Sure there were enough turnovers ( 6 picks, two lost fumbles, out of five total) to fill an entire regular season weekend but who's cares? We want to see play making in an anything-can-happen atmosphere and that's basically what we got. And we're willing to sit through a scoreless third quarter as long as the game goes down to the wire, thank you.
The television ratings for this game will continue to rival the other major sports' marquee events. That the NFL's much maligned all star event can even compete with the World Series and NBA Finals is simply amazing. It's also the reason why it won't go away despite getting frequently ripped by national media.