The sports world has no greater spectacle than the Pro Bowl. Therefore, we dispatched Zach Everson to write about the Pro Bowl for us. He's out in Hawaii. Jerk. Here's his first dispatch; he'll file again for Monday.
The Super Bowl gets covered by Will and Daulerio; the Pro Bowl gets covered by some guy who contributes to another Gawker site and just happens to be in Honolulu when the game's being played. Consider me Deadspin's Don Criqui.
Originally I had no intention of going to the Pro Bowl. I watched two downs of it on TV last year.
The MLB All-Star game is a classic that's significant because of baseball's history. The NBA All-Star game is, as Simmons puts it, the black Super Bowl. And it's important because this one time, Magic had The HIV, but played in the game anyway and people touched him and they didn't die (even though it was before anti-bac).
But what's memorable about the Pro Bowl? Nothing other than that coaches and broadcasters wear Hawaiian shirts. There's no rivalry between the AFC and the NFC. The season is over, so there's not much football-related to talk about. The players just want to collect their money ($40,000 for the winners, $20,000 for the losers) and escape unhurt. I've seen people exert themselves harder playing Madden.
Seventeen players who made the Pro Bowl aren't playing in it. Granted, Sean Taylor has a good excuse, but what about the rest of them (looking at you Super Freak)?
Anyway, a friend is coming out to visit and wanted to go to the game. I figured if I was going to have to watch the Pro Bowl, I might as well get paid for doing so. So I pitched on-site coverage to Will. He bit and you lose.
For Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, a friend and I orbited Reliant Stadium for 12 hours searching for tickets. We encountered the same amount of ex-presidents — one (George Bush who rolled down his Suburban's window and gave us a big wave) — as scalpers.
He (the tout, not George) was selling tickets for $2,000 each. Instead of watching the game in person, we caught it at a bar downtown. The $600 in twenties that I'd been carrying with me went to a $27 t-bone steak served on a styrofoam plate, several buckets of Miller Lites and a victory cigar instead (remember when the Pats were lovable and won Super Bowls?).
Getting tickets for the Pro Bowl was easier. Ten days before the game, I:
- Sat down in front of my computer
- Cleared off my Urkel screensaver
- Went to www.ticketmaster.com
- Bought a ticket
The price was $41.80. And that included $6.80 in fees and taxes.
Pro Bowl Week Kick-off Rally
Unlike the Super Bowl, which is an event and a game, the Pro Bowl is just an event. Only without parties. Or celebrity sightings. Or a lot of things to do.
The week's festivities started with a rally at Bishop Square in downtown Honolulu, nowhere near either the stadium or where most of the fans are staying in Waikiki.
Upon reaching the square, the first thing I saw was the biggest asshole in football, a title previously held by Jeremy Shockey.
Thirty minutes before the rally started, Queen's "We Will Rock You" blared from the PA. I was unsure as to who would rock me. These folks perhaps?
I was about to introduce myself to Tiki, Mohammed, Jugdish, Sidney and Clayton, but thought better of it. I figured this fella might be more interesting.
The guy is a Packers fan, his friend had ordered the hat for him in anticipation of a Patriots-Packers Super Bowl. His story made me feel a little better about the Pats' choke job last week.
(This paragraph is the only time I'll mention the events of February 3, 2008: this season was the ultimate case of blue balls. The Patriots gave us fans seven months of constantly intensifying foreplay, only when we were about to get some release, the team put its thumb over our pee holes.)
Anyway, the rally started and the highlight for most people occurred at the onset: the introduction of both teams' cheerleading squads. Guys started pushing and shoving to the front, taking pictures with their cell phones, acting as if they didn't know free porn is readily available online. And to think I always assumed Gregg Easterbrook fabricated his reader e-mails.
As the cheerleaders gyrated, a woman next to me yelled, "You know I got that at home," referring to their dance moves. I looked over. The only things she had at home were five hungry kids, a pile of letters from collection agencies, and a small stash of meth.
After the cheerleaders finished, the rally consisted of speeches that fired up the crowd.
Former Buffalo Bill but currently unemployed Lauvale Sape, on hand as a local high school graduate done good, started his speech by asking us to excuse his poor English. He then went on to explain that children need to stay in school. Hopefully that message resonated with the couple of dozen kids in attendance at 12:39 p.m. on a Wednesday in February.
After a few local charities were honored, the four Pro Bowl players in attendance spoke. The Cliff's Notes:
- Brendon Ayanbadejo: Follow your dream, and the refs cost the NFC the game last year.
- Darnell Dockett: He had a rough upbringing. (This biographical tidbit excited the woman next to me who applauded and yelled, "Alright! Thug!")
- Tommee Harris: "I look forward to spending my time getting the leis and the kisses."
- Julian Peterson: He said the previous three players stole his material, so he'd have to freestyle. I got excited, expecting The Aristocrats to follow. Instead he performed his Emmitt Smith imitation and wished everyone "Maloha."
The rally ended at about 1:30 p.m. And as there were no other Pro Bowl-related activities that day, I went off to slay Pats fans' least favorite Hawaiian golf pro, Matt Walsh.
Pro Bowl Football Festival
I attend lots of sporting events, but always skip the fan fests because they never take place in a bar. So I reckoned the Pro Bowl would be a good occasion to pop my fan-fest cherry.
The first thing I saw at the football festival was a contest to win a $25 gift certificate — to Supercuts. To win, someone needed to know what Hall of Fame quarterback was drafted 82nd in 1979. It was three minutes before one of the 50 people there even bothered to hazard a guess. (Answer: Joe Montana)
In order of pathos (least to most), the crowd consisted of
- the homeless
- adult autograph collectors
Having no interest in winning a haircut, I worked my way through a gauntlet of memorabilia stands to the other side of the park where there was a mass of people.
No, they weren't at Play 60: The NFL movement for an active generation.
They were at Wait in Line for 180: The NFL's inertia for those who bask in reflected glory and hawk it on eBay.
And it wasn't Peyton and Eli signing autographs. The three-hour wait was for Lorenzo Neal and Brendon Ayanbadejo.
The first item up for bids was an autographed Dallas Cowboys' cheerleaders calendar. The bidding was intense: one guy bid $150 but was deemed homeless and shooed away by the cops. A minute later the bidding again reached $150. This person proved solvent, and the calendar was sold.
It started to rain, so I walked across the street to take cover at a food stand on the beach. While waiting I ventured into the bathroom. As I was going, the guy next to me, a dead ringer for Mike Ditka but with earrings, took an interest in my doings. After a three-second peek, he was unimpressed (I must be a grower, not a shower) and left me alone to ponder why I didn't have the good sense to stay out of a bathhouse in the first place.
The rain stopped and I returned to the festival where making the rounds was the Dolphin's mascot — who resembles Gerald Broflovski after his dolphinoplasty.
And even though I'm a Pats fan, I know how to get along well with dolphins [NSFW]. So we became fast friends.
I then moseyed up the other side of the park where the food and games were. The food looked disgusting (possibly the first time I've seen popcorn and not bought it), and most of the games were being taken down, even though it was two hours before the football festival was scheduled to close.
Supercuts, however, was still open for those not fortunate enough to win a gift certificate.
As I mentioned earlier, I was losing my fan-fest virginity. And it was hurting.
Having been at the festival for more than two hours, I felt I needed to do more than just take pictures and jot down snarky observations in my notebook. As Deadspin is a sports website, I figured I'd show some sort of athletic feat, so here's my field goal attempt. It fell a yard short.
In short: The Pro Bowl Football Festival was like a carnival only with no rides, fewer games, and the carneys aren't workers, but rather are the attendees. The fan fest runs for the rest of the week. I won't be back.
Monday I'll report back on the All-Star Block Party and the game itself. And maybe Saturday morning's open practice if I can manage to sleep it off in time.