There are several key storylines that all media outlets are required to discuss in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. We will do our part by beating them into the ground as far as we can.
For years, the Pro Bowl has been the least relevant event on the sporting calendar. It's a game no one wants to participate in at a time no one wants to watch football and of all the major all-star events, it's the one that least resembles the game it's supposed to be honoring. (Football without hitting or speed! Huzzah!) So in a last ditch effort to get someone to pay attention, they moved it up two weeks and switched the venue from Hawaii (for the first time in 30 years) to the Super Bowl host city. There's been so little interest in the Pro Bowl recently that it can't hurt, right?
Incredibly, it has. Somehow changes that were designed to make more people happy, have pissed off everyone. The Pro Bowlers are mad, because they lost out on a free trip to Hawaii. Sure, playing the game sucks, but at least you get some sun. And a trip to Miami doesn't make up for that, because most of them would have been hanging out there during Super Bowl week anyway. Now they can't even enjoy the parties, because they have to work on Sunday. Thanks for the honor?
The Pro Bowlers who play for Super Bowl teams—and there are a lot of them—are pissed too, because they can't play in the game but the NFL still wants them to be there for photo ops with bigwig corporate sponsors. It's like being forced to attend an all-night dorm kegger, but not being allowed to drink because you have an exam in the morning.
Then there are the guys who have just finished a long grueling season, some of whom have not even had one full week to recover, and are not really up for another week of practice, no matter how half-assed it is. Thirty-one players who were originally named to Pro Bowl rosters have dropped out or declined, including 14 Super Bowlers. Aaron Rodgers is the starting quarterback for the NFC and I think Jim Kelly is being brought out of retirement to run the AFC offense. The star power of the event has actually been diminished, which is amazing when you consider that one of those stars is Alan Faneca.
Oh, and if all that wasn't enough, they're playing the Pro Bowl on the same grass field that the Super Bowl will be played on a week later ... but the NFL will not replace the turf before the big finale. (Even though stadium workers have to replace everything else.) So after a full NFL football game bookended by five straight days of rain, the grass should be in tip-top shape for the most important game of the season.
But the Pro Bowl should do slightly better in the ratings this year, since a lot of drug addicts and confused football fans will tune in anyway and believe they're watching the Super Bowl.
Pro Bowl is an embarrassing waste of time [Miami Herald]
Jon Gruden: Colts' Bill Polian right to criticize NFL about Pro Bowl rules [USA Today]
NFL players' union leaders air concerns over Pro Bowl location, timing, money [Boston Herald]
Play it whenever, Pro Bowl is still NFL's weak link [Yuma Sun]
Crew Meticulously Prepares Pro Bowl Field [CBS4]