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This Pro Bowl Play Broke Me

Photo: Mark Brown (Getty)

The Pro Bowl transcends criticism, or praise. (The latter transcendence is academic, because no one has ever praised the Pro Bowl, not even, I don’t think, the players who are selected for it.) It it bulletproof to all disparagement because that disparagement necessarily takes place on a plane the game itself doesn’t exist upon; no sport changes so much when played at half-speed and without contact and without anyone involved caring about winning as football does, and the change is so total that it isn’t really football anymore. It’s its own sport, an entire sport played just once a year, and has the trappings and equipage of football, and can occasionally look like football if you squint hard enough or go to a bar that has it on one of its TVs without sound and you aren’t really paying attention. But it’s not football, it’s something strange and vestigial, and it’s certainly not good, but it’s also immune to being bad because “bad” is a value judgment using values it does not acknowledge. The Pro Bowl just is. And always will be. And very occasionally, it can be something transcendent.

Here’s a play from Sunday’s Pro Bowl, won by one conference or other, by no doubt some score. It was wet and no one was tackling and a whole bunch of offensive players were playing defense, for some reason, and so this happened:

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That’s WR Mike Evans, playing cornerback, picking off a pass and lateraling to Anthony Barr, who fumbled, and since this isn’t the sort of game where anyone’s going to do something as gauche as dive the ball was picked up by Harrison Smith, who lateraled to RB Saquon Barkley, playing defensive end(?), who lateraled back to Smith before a chorus of whistles mercifully blew the play dead before anyone had to resort to anything like a tackle.

Confused? It’s simple, really:

Now let us go another year without speaking or even thinking of the Pro Bowl, because like some eldritch Lovecraftian horror, its mere existence has the power to ruin men’s minds.

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