Mike Vandermause column: It's time to scrap the Pro Bowl

Dec. 26, 2012

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the NFC is sacked by the AFC defense during the first quarter of last season's Pro Bowl on Jan. 29 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Rodgers criticized the half-hearted effort put forth by many of the players in the game. / File/AP


We all suspected the Pro Bowl had some serious problems, but now it has been confirmed.

The voting process is flawed and must be fixed, and the game itself should be eliminated.

Nothing against Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday, who is a stand-up guy with an impressive NFL career resume, but he deserves a Pro Bowl berth this season about as much as I deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.

Saturday was one of three Packers named to the NFC team on Wednesday along with Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews.

Although Saturday served as an adequate stopgap in the middle of the Packersí offense for 14 games, it turns out he isnít even the best center on the roster, since he was benched in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith last week.

For a six-time Pro Bowl player and 14-year veteran like Saturday, his Pro Bowl invitation is based more on popularity than performance. How else can you explain Saturday getting more votes than any other NFC center among fans, who account for one-third of the selection process?

There is nothing wrong with recognizing the best NFL players at each position, which is what the Pro Bowl is supposed to accomplish, but there has to be a better way to compile that list.

As for the game, held on the Sunday before the Super Bowl in Hawaii, it has degenerated into an embarrassing spectacle in which players go through the motions and attempt to avoid injuries.

ďThey have to do something about it, I think everyone is in agreement about that,Ē said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, a two-time NFC Pro Bowl head coach. ďI had the opportunity to coach it last year and coaching it after the í07 season, thereís clearly a drop-off in the game-day performance. Itís definitely an issue and thereís something that needs to be done. I donít know what the answer is. I donít even know what the options are.Ē

The best option is to end this charade and not play the game at all. The NFL can and should continue to honor the best players ó assuming it devises a better selection method ó but thereís no good reason to stage an utterly meaningless game.

Just because the Pro Bowl draws higher TV ratings than the Major League Baseball All-Star Game isnít a good reason to keep it going.

The NFL wisely exterminated the College All-Star Game decades ago and did the same with the Playoff Bowl that pitted first-round postseason losers in a less-than-epic consolation game.

Itís time for the Pro Bowl to get tossed on that scrap heap of ill-conceived, manufactured NFL events.

It took a player with legitimate Pro Bowl credentials like Rodgers last February to point out what a sham the game has become.

Two days after the game Rodgers tweeted: ď[T]he fans paid money to watch the pro bowl in person. I know no one wants to get hurt but on a couple plays the effort level was really bad donít u think?? If u wanna rip me for that go ahead. I think those folks in attendance n watching on tv would agree.Ē

The NFL is a multi-billion-dollar industry and doesnít need what little extra money is generated by the Pro Bowl. The players donít need an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii in February. And the fans donít need to watch a sporting event that is less competitive and entertaining than your typical Muni League touch football game.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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