SBD/April 27, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Future Of Pro Bowl Relies On Bargaining, League Improving Quality Of Play

NFL is working with NFLPA on evaluating potential changes to Pro Bowl
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sat down with ESPN’s Chris Berman prior to the start of the NFL Draft and said the league “hasn’t said we would do anything” in terms of cancelling or suspending the Pro Bowl. Goodell: “What we’ve said is that we’re going thru the process of evaluating the Pro Bowl. We owe our fans more. The quality of that game is not up to NFL standards and we want to make it exciting, we want to make it something the fans love, and we believe that we can do better. We’ve been working with the players and the Players’ Association. We had a meeting recently. Some ideas came out of that that I think are intriguing and we’re going to pursue and work with the players on. But we have to work together to make it better and it has to improve or else we shouldn’t do it.” The “issue is: how fast can we implement the changes that we all believe can improve the quality of the game and if we can do it by next year that’s one objective. If we think we need an extra year to make whatever changes are necessary, we should do that, and if we can’t get to a reasonable conclusion that makes the game better than we should just discontinue the game” ("'12 NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/26).

UP TO THE PLAYERS? ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote the future of the Pro Bowl beyond ’13 “looks bleak” and part of the league’s position on the matter “is bargaining.” Owners and league officials know most players selected to the Pro Bowl “enjoy using the game as a chance to vacation in Hawaii with family and friends.” But the game itself “has become a vacation from real football.” Clayton: “Only the players can save the Pro Bowl. If they do, it will continue.” But for it to continue, the NFLPA “must give the league assurances that fewer players will pull out of the game and provide a plan to improve the quality of play.” For their part, players “will probably ask that Hawaii be a permanent site.” But establishing Hawaii as a permanent site “may not be that easy.” Clayton: “Attendance has been poor. Revenues are down. Costs are higher.” And some government officials in Hawaii “seem unwilling to make the concessions the NFL is seeking.” Clayton wrote he thinks the league “will come up with a deal, but only if the players step up to save the game.” TV networks “still want it” and if the players "feel the same way, they can save it” (ESPN.com, 4/26). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote despite “decent TV ratings -- the NFL could hold a team breakfast and people would watch -- the game is a total dog and apparently the league is tired of trotting out a bad product.” It is “an impossible equation,” as players “simply don't want to risk getting hurt for a game that means zero, not even for a free trip to Hawaii” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/26).

DON'T GO JUST YET: Bengals QB Andy Dalton said, “It’s something as a kid you watch and think you want to play in. Getting an opportunity this year it was a lot of fun. It kind of gives you a chance to relax and enjoy yourself and you get to be around other guys that you aren’t around all the time” (CINCINNATI.com, 4/26).
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