Everyone's had his fun mocking the NFL for what it did to the Pro Bowl this year. Domo's fact- and snark-filled piece this morning was a particularly entertaining example of the genre:
Thanks to the league's decision to move the game from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before it, no other Pro Bowl ever has had so few of the league's best players participating in it as Sunday night's game will. Just 48 of the original 76 offensive and defensive players selected for the game will be suiting up.
A total of 14 players from the two Super Bowl participants, the Saints and the Vikings, won't be playing in the game, although the league is making them fly down to South Florida a day early anyway to wave to the crowd and make nice with ESPN sideline reporters Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya.
What's left is a very diluted product.
A note, first, on the NFL "making" the Super Bowl participants come down a day early here. There are two possibilites: 1) it's a huge issue and it's mind-blowing that someone with as much money and clout as Peyton Manning wouldn't just tell the League to kiss off and tell him where to send the check, or 2) it's not that big a deal.
Given that the teams have two weeks to prepare for each other, I'm kinda leaning towards option #2.
As for the diluted product, that's true -- to a point. Having a Pro Bowl without Peyton and Brees sort of misses the entire point of the event. But it's not like all the guys went to Hawaii most years, either. Wikipedia lists 121 players on the Pro Bowl rosters this year. The average the last few years has been closer to 100. So even before they moved it, you still had 24 guys -- an offense, defense and two specialists -- skipping out each year because of injuries, "injuries" or fatigue.
The problem is worse this year, but consider one more thing. These are the guys on the Saints and Colts who have to miss the game:
- Peyton Manning
- Reggie Wayne
- Dallas Clark
- Jeff Saturday
- Dwight Freeney
- Robert Mathis
- Antoine Bethea
- Drew Brees
- Jonathan Stinchcomb
- Jahri Evans
- Jonathan Goodwin
- Jonathan Vilma
- Darren Sharper
- Roman Harper
Some of those guys are no-brainers, but did New Orleans really have three of the best offensive linemen in the NFC? Two of the three best safeties? Did Freeney and Mathis both really deserve to be starters? (Actually, maybe.) Does Dallas Clark, a glorified slot receiver, really need to be there ahead of all the other actual tight ends in the AFC?
Is anyone other than Antoine Bethea's immediate family going to be bummed that he's not playing there this week?
Two wrongs don't make a right, but if moving the Pro Bowl up helps to cancel out the bandwagon fan voting that comes with teams having great seasons, maybe it's not all bad.