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Pro Bowl Quality Degrades Before Fans’ Eyes with Another Forgettable Game

The NFL’s annual All-Star game has come and gone, and with it another lacklustre performance from its participants that is sure to foster fresh propositions to do away with the game.

As in Pro Bowls past, the quality and competitiveness of this year’s event was apparent in the opening quarter, but progressively devolved into a star-studded game of flag football as the afternoon wore on.

To make one thing very clear: this isn’t the fault of the players. Everyone who plays this game understands the unwritten rule of avoiding injuries at all costs. You can’t blame the players – for whom long-term health is a primary financial investment – when they wrap up opponents and even fellow teammates in bear hugs and “two-hand touches” constituting tackles.

Nor can you blame the referees, who reach for their whistles as soon as a runner is contacted, rendering the whole spectacle a professional football game in name only.

But at a certain point, one starts to feel some second-hand embarrassment for the fans that pay to watch the game live or tune in to support the NFL’s most groan-inducing game.

For this particular fan, the game began as a fun novelty that gradually got less and less interesting. By halftime, the TV remained on simply out of interest in the interviews with Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. The game was little more than background noise for most of the second half.

As a self-professed football addict, am I part of the problem? Absolutely, but that doesn’t make the Pro Bowl any more tolerable for long time fans.

By the third quarter, defenders served solely as obstacles for running backs to collapse into and promptly come to a complete stop. That much is acceptable.

But when Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett takes the direct snap from the shotgun and shrugs off one half-hearted tackle on his way to the house, things start feeling a little condescending.

The final straw, though, came when the referees actually blew that play dead because a single arm came into contact with Bennett’s upper body. The obvious disappointment dripping from Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden’s voices was masked only by the relief that this would all be over in a few minutes.

Maybe it’s just a case of recency bias, and everyone will be back to watch it again next year. Or maybe the game’s fundamental problems feel magnified in the wake of the NHL’s extremely entertaining All-Star game and its most unlikely MVP, John Scott. Whatever the reason, something needs to be done about the Pro Bowl.

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