Jay C. Brandriet
The Pro Bowl was “played” today. I looked at it, but couldn’t have cared less. A buddy had text me, “It’s a relaxed game.”
A relaxed pillow fight is more like it.
The life and death of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl is something I’ve seen in three stages.
STAGE 1 – THE SENTIMENTAL/PLAY HARD ERA
I remember watching the 1985 Pro Bowl when I was ten years old. Cool would not do it justice. I told my dad, “I can’t believe Giants, Redskins, and Eagles are working with the Cowboys. This is great.” There seemed to be conference pride on the line. Other than extra interviews and a chill vibe, it landed like it was a real football matchup. Seeing the atmosphere and colors of an NFL All-Star Sunday is something I started to look forward to.
I watched the 1988 AFC/NFC Pro Bowl today.
Here is what the opening possession looked like.
Tim Brown takes the kickoff and is tackled by the neck.
The offensive and defensive lines are smashing up against each other. It comes across like they are giving “90 to 95 percent” normal effort.
Reggie White almost sacks QB Warren Moon, and gets him on the lower body.
Eric Dickerson is hammered by Mike Singletary and Charles Mann.
Andre Reed catches a pass over the middle. He is tackled hard by Joey Browner. At that same time Vikings teammate Carl Lee was attempting to put Reed in a hard sandwich as Browner had him held up (100% legal).
This time Charles Mann is all over Moon’s legs.
Broadcaster Joe Theismann adds, “the intensity will pick up as this game moves along. The winners get a bonus 10,000 dollars, and the loser will get 5,000.”
STAGE 2- THE GAME DID NOT GET ENOUGH CREDIT
By the early 2000’s, all my die-hard sports friends were out on the Pro Bowl. Chris Bellamy was disgusted I still gave it a thought. Russ Riggs drops, “Everyone realizes it sucks. There’s Jay, hanging onto the Pro Bowl cliff by his fingernails.”
My stance was, “You guys can say what you want. But I know I’ll still be watching Moss, Manning, and Priest Holmes tomorrow. This game is now underrated. Everyone thinks it’s a “1” and it’s a “6.”
STAGE 3- IT’S NOT PRO FOOTBALL ANYMORE
For the last several years, this contest has been a joke. It’s like a pre-game walk through. It’s an unspoken afternoon of touch football. It’s not that these guys are soft. It’s that they are super wealthy and valuable to their franchises.
The game seems like an awkward commitment, so the NFL can flex its television muscles.
You can’t be legit doing anything trying 31 percent.
The players used to chase money to get a Pro Bowl victory.
Now we have to protect big money.
This AFC-NFC event can’t recover.
It’s key to honor athletes with the label of making it.
Why act it out anymore?
I saw the Pro Bowl live and die.
To grieve this contest, I’ll choose to remember when the game meant a little something to me. The palm trees of Honolulu, Hawaii. Like celebration mixed with sadness. It felt like a romantic hangover. The Pro Bowl was the official goodbye of each season.
Now, I’d just like it to say goodbye.
Jay C. Brandriet