All-star games continue to be silly exhibitions

by Gary Shelton on February 7, 2022

in general

Antoine Winfield had a good game./Tim Wirt

Monday, 4 a.m.

Imagine that you love chess. Imagine that you love the strategies and the counters. Imagine you love the expertise and the flair.

Then imagine you go to a match, and instead, what you see are grand masters focused ... on a game of checkers.

And that, people, is what's wrong with the Pro Bowl.

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If you're looking for a football game, even a mediocre football game, you are going to be disappointed. For all that is holy, the great players of the NFL might as well be replaced by Adam Sandler, Jamie Foxx and the gang.

You know: The guys who act at playing football.

They played the punchline known as the Pro Bowl again Sunday, and again, it set football back about a decade and a half. In NFL time, it's somewhere about the year 1812 (it has its own overture). The game was sloppy, and it was silly. What it wasn't was football.

Of course, that shouldn't surprise anyone. The Pro Bowl has been a joke for years, probably because no one really takes it seriously. Tackling is a rumor and Sunday -- playing quarterback was a fable. There were seven interceptions by six quarterbacks. There were three fumbles by quarterbacks, who suffered seven sacks. The NFC team combined for one whole yard rushing.

How bad was it? It was so bad that Deion Sanders and J.J. Watt and Shannon Sharpe all made fun of it.

It's nothing new. The Pro Bowl has been a farce for years because of players uninterested in playing and not showing up and because of players who are uninterested showing up and playing. Players want to be selected for the prestige (and the signing bonuses), but they don't care to actually play.

But here is the main thing that is right with football but wrong with the Pro Bowl. Passion. The game needs it -- it drives the intensity of the game. But the Pro Bowl can't make teams muster the motivation that makes football matter.

Because of that, an all-star game cannot represent a game that actually matters. That's true in hockey, too, where defensemen turn into figure skaters. Don't get me wrong: I like the skills competition in hockey. But an all-star game in hockey is like watching watch a concert where the lead singer lip-synchs.

Look, Tampa Bay actually had some performances in the weekend's games. Steven Stamkos scored a goal. Mike Evans scored a touchdown. Antoine Winfield had highlight interception and return for a touchdown. Devin White had 14 tackles.

But as games went, it was silliness in cleats.

Maybe the NFL should consider naming a team -- people seem to care about that -- and introduce the teams before the Super Bowl kickoff. No one needs to go through the chicken dance.

Fortunately, no one has to watch, either.

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