01/26/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
It's fitting the NFL's Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star game were played on the same day. I'm assuming that was the case since neither sport is really worried about the other drawing away from it's viewership, since nobody seems to care about either event anyway.
There was a time when being selected to the Pro Bowl or to the All Star Game meant something. Those days are obviously gone. There was a time when the Pro Bowl was played after the Super Bowl in Hawaii for a reason, so even those players playing in the Super Bowl could participate. The reason is self explanatory...the Pro Bowl is more of a chore than it is a privilege to play in. It used to be the best of the AFC would play the best of the NFC in the Pro Bowl and that pride meant something. This year, instead of conferences, it's a team selected by Cris Carter against a team selected by Michael Irvin in Glendale, Arizona, where the Super Bowl will be played next week.
The logic is that having the potential of players in the same conference playing against each other, and the possibility of teammates doing battle, will rejuvenate the Pro Bowl, which has been lacking excitement and meaning for more than a little while now. I understand the concept, but the fact of the matter is that in the long term, I doubt that increases the interest level in the game.
It's hard to be interested in a game as a fan when the players who are playing in it aren't really that interested. The Pro Bowl has been the equivalent to NFL Flag Football for quite a while now. Players don't want to risk injury in a meaningless game. And the NFL doesn't want to admit the Pro Bowl is a joke now. So that's why we have Team Irvin and Team Carter instead of the NFC against the AFC. The Pro Bowl being considered "meaningless" has eliminated the pride of the game. Representing your conference used to mean something. Of course being selected and actually playing used to mean something. With the game now before the Super Bowl, all of those participating no longer will play in the Pro Bowl. And that diminishes the luster of the game. That and the fact there are a whole host of rule changes to make it seem more like glorified flag football than an actual competition.
And that brings me to the NHL All Star Game. Again, there was a time when playing for the conference you played in meant something to players. Wearing the name of Campbell and Wales across the jersey they wore meant something for the players wearing them. So did it when the players selected to be NHL All Stars meant they played against the Soviet Red Army team in the Challenge Cup in the 1970's and the Rendezvous '87.
And of course, being selected to the All Star game meant something. Those days have been replaced by fan voting. And while I understand the novelty of it, fan voting has no meaning in the cyber age of today. And the "fantasy" draft of being selected to a players team instead of a conference team makes the All Star Game feel like more of fantasy hockey than anything else.
If you doubt the lack of importance of either of these All Star contests, look at the number of players who decline to play or who are "injured" and "can't" play. There was a time when these games mattered. Unfortunately, those days have passed.
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