The Pro Bowl is a dangerous product of NFL marketing

The Pro Bowl is a dangerous product of NFL marketing

Imagine that you are an avid Star Wars fan.

You can recite quotes from all seven episodes almost effortlessly, you went to the premier of Episode VII clad in a Han Solo costume that would put Harrison Ford’s original getup to shame and you still watch The Phantom Menace annually just to cast aspersions on Jar Jar Binks.

Now it is December 2017, and you are in your seat at the movie theatre, dressed to the nines in a Kylo Ren ensemble, bucket of popcorn in hand, eagerly anticipating for The Last Jedi to satiate your fandom. Now, imagine that in addition to the standard previews preceding the film, you also are forced to watch a 30-minute episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a TV show that ran on Cartoon Network for six years as a way to market the Star Wars brand to a younger set of viewers. Nobody asked for it, nobody wanted it and yet you still have to sit through a mediocre and mundane spin-off of the series you love so much before you can enjoy the main event.

The Pro Bowl, it seems, is increasingly becoming The Clone Wars equivalent of the NFL. I would argue that even the most impassioned of football fans couldn’t care less if the game was removed from the typical NFL season. It is clearly an attempt by the greedy, authoritative and exclusive fraternity that is the NFL to siphon as much of a profit as possible from its fans before the biggest television event in American pop culture. While that may seem a bit harsh, I am here to explain why making such a claim isn’t really that radical.

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It’s easy to point to the NBA’s version of the Pro Bowl, the All-Star game, as an example of how it is possible to orchestrate a meaningless game consisting of the sport’s most talented stars competing against each other and turn it into a must-see event.

However, to put it quite simply, football is a much more dangerous sport than basketball. Throwing down a ferocious dunk or making a flashy pass is nowhere near as risky as making a devastating tackle on a running back. And in a sport like football, where career-ending injuries are not an infrequent occurrence and guaranteed money is scarce because of this, it’s hard to motivate stars like Odell Beckham Jr. to play to their full potential in an inconsequential game and risk suffering a calamitous injury that could cause them to lose millions of dollars.

What’s the point of having an all-star game if there is no incentive whatsoever for stars to play like stars? As we saw in college with notable players such as Leonard Fournette choosing to sit out for their bowl games, risking millions of dollars to play in a game with zero stakes is proving to be an unintelligent decision from a business perspective.

Since most of the top NFL players are smart enough to realize this and decline their invitations to the Pro Bowl, we are often left with replacements that are masquerading as “elite” talent. Did you know that Teddy Bridgewater was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2015 even with the painfully average touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14-9? The worst part is that the NFL knows fully well that they’re putting out a substandard, unimportant product that could lead to serious injuries for participants and doesn’t care, simply because it wants to maximize profits. That is why they should cancel the Pro Bowl, and just advertise the Super Bowl for two weeks straight.

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