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Pro-Bowl Struggles To Gain Popularity



A lot of sports have all-star games: baseball, basketball, hockey - the best of the best facing off against each other. But football's all-star game, well, it's having a little bit of trouble. The Pro Bowl, as it's called, has struggled for audiences. So, this past week, the NFL and the player's union declared new rules which they hope will fix the problems. And it just so happens that NPR's Mike Pesca has some thoughts about all of this. Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: I do have thoughts, but let me lay this thought on you. I enjoyed my theme music this week as it happened as a sorbet to cleanse. And maybe we needed a stronger sorbet, like a bleach, to cleanse the ears from that karaoke. But, yes, let us continue on.

MARTIN: Let us move on from that. OK. So, the Pro Bowl - they want to make some changes. What kind of changes are we talking about?

PESCA: Well, here's the problem: tackle football - its analyzed phrase - there's almost no feet involved. A little punting and kicking. And the ball - only two players down really touch the ball. There's so much tackling. It's all a violent sport. Everything about football is the promise of violence; two large men banging their bodies against each other. Even if you want to say, oh, what about the acrobatic catches and great runs, without the frison(ph) of a violent collision at the end, it becomes less exciting.

So, in the Pro Bowl, the players take it easy. They should - they have their health to maintain. But it just doesn't seem like football. When you compare it to the NBA All-Star Game, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, it seems like a weird thing and fans were tuning out. So, they just overhauled a lot of it. There will no longer be an AFC and an NFC. They're going to put all the players in a pool and pick them, like you pick sides for a gym class. And actually, Deon Sanders and Jerry Rice are going to coach the teams and two online fantasy football civilians will be involved in who picks who.

MARTIN: Really?

PESCA: So, yes. They're kind of throwing every solution at this problem.

MARTIN: I mean, that doesn't seem like it happens anywhere else, where regular Joes gets to pick the team.

PESCA: Well, the idea of the fake draft actually does happen in the NHL, but the NHL's production - then they do a TV show about this, and the NHL could use some help because the production values for that aren't really good and the players put on a fake jersey over a shirt and tie, which ain't great. And it just seems like they're letting the best opportunity slip by, which is if you're going to embrace fantasy football, have those awful fantasy football team names. So, instead of AFC versus NFC, it would be great if the Pro Bowl this year was Reavis and Butthead versus Somewhere Over the Dwayne Bow.

MARTIN: So, is this going to work, do you think?

PESCA: This is what'll happen. That day, that Wednesday, it's going to be where they pick the teams - that'll be a good TV viewing appointment. So, people will be curious for at least a year or two, and I think people would want to watch the Pro Bowl. They've also changed the game a little bit. There's going to be more drives. There's going to be more last-minute drills. So, I think it's a decent short-term solution. It shows they are trying to solve the problem. But the long-term problem will still be there.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Mike Pesca, also a fan of karaoke. Thanks so much, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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