It only seemed like there were no pro sports on this weekend. But no, there was an NHL All-Star Game and the Pro Bowl, both fun and a little pointless, even though fun's supposed to be the point.
The preemptive strike against criticism of these games is usually "it's not targeted toward you," and I get that, since when I was a kid I fricking loved these things. It was a chance to play out your trading card fantasies without having to go full nerd and play Strat-O-Matic. But at the same time, when ads for the ASG are sandwiched between beer and Levitra commercials, and more of the same play during the actual game, I'm pretty sure my 18-49, disposable income demographic is still highly valued.
So then what to make of the Guardian Project, the roundly panned series of 30 team-specific superheroes created by Marvel? Their adventures have been posted, and they traffic in location stereotypes. (The Flyer fights 10 Ben Franklins! The Oiler protects Edmonton's oil!) They were introduced, they've done their thing, and now let's never speak of them again.
The game itself was what you'd expect: no hitting, no defense, no running the risk of anyone getting hurt. For anyone who thinks hockey is too low-scoring, take a look at the alternative: an 11-10 monstrosity where the defensive pairing of Lidstrom and Weber managed a combined +13, and the best goaltending performance was a sparkling .882 save percentage.
There was also the first penalty shot in ASG history, thanks to Alex Ovechkin trying to quash a breakaway by hurling his stick.
So maybe the All-Star Game wasn't for the fans at home, but rather a party for the players themselves. In that case, I'm guessing they wish they played football, because Honolulu's a little nicer than Raleigh in January, and most every month. But the Pro Bowl wasn't much better with its offense-to-defense ratio. The NFC jumped out to an early 42-0 lead and hung on for a 55-41 victory, which to be fair isn't far off the point total for the last time the Steelers and Packers played.
But if you want a sneak preview of what Roger Goodell's NFL will look like with an 18-game schedule and all the hitting taken out, this was it. Tackles were made gingerly, when at all. Receivers seemed to have a five-yard force field around them until they caught the ball. Blitzing was the flag football, count to three-mississippi variety.
At least the Pro Bowl had one memorable moment: a multi-lateral play that ended up with 300-pounder Alex Mack rumbling in for a score, but not before Roman Harper tried (not very hard) to push him out:
So that was fun. It's pointless to get too upset over the Pro Bowl or NHL All-Star Game, as they're really just free entertainment to take or leave. They're not substitutes for actual sports, and should not be treated as such.