SBD/August 1, 2013/Events and AttractionsPrint All
The NFL yesterday announced that the player-selection process for this season's Pro Bowl will be without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. Players instead will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, in which two leading vote-getters will join two NFL.com fantasy football champions to draft players. Pro Football HOFers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni team captains. The Pro Bowl Draft will air on Wednesday, Jan. 22 on NFL Network. Other changes for the '14 event include a two-minute warning added to the first and third quarters, and the ball changing hands after each quarter. There also will be no kickoffs. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays (NFL). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote the changes could "revitalize the Pro Bowl, which has been plagued over the past couple years with terrible effort from the players and threats" from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that he "might do away with the game." The event still "gets great ratings, so there was obviously a lot of desire to keep the game going" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/31).
FEELING A DRAFT: CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb said that the Pro Bowl “will never go away" because people watch it, and the NFL is “actually able to make more money because they're going to televise this draft.” Gottlieb praised the NHL, saying hockey “has been doing this in the All-Star Game for the past couple years and it’s great.” He said, “Any good idea is worth copying” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 7/31). USA TODAY's Kevin Manahan writes there "likely will be more drama in the draft than in the game," because no matter "how sternly Goodell appeals to players' pride, stars listen more to their agents and care more for their health and wallets" (USA TODAY, 8/1). In L.A., Chuck Schilken noted the NHL has used "a similar format for its all-star game for the last few years." But it could "kind of diminish the thrill of being chosen as a Pro Bowler if you're the very last person selected" (LATIMES.com, 7/31).
ARE CHANGES ENOUGH? NFL.com's Chris Wesseling wrote, "While we salute the NFL and the players' union for their creativity and willingness to think outside the box, we can't help but wonder if the new format fixes the most obvious problem with the Pro Bowl." NFL fans "weren't tuning out because they were tired of seeing the NFC's best versus the AFC's best." They simply were "offended by players going through the motions, making 'business decisions' when it came to tackling and blocking in an exhibition game" (NFL.com, 7/31). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the changes will "make it more interesting in the short-term, but it may not solve the fundamental problem of will the layers go harder in the Pro Bowl." Florio: "At least it’s something different and maybe different will make more people interested in the game" ("PFT," NBC Sports Network, 7/31). ESPN's Herm Edwards said the changes are "great" but wondered whether the players are "going to play tackle football or are they going to play touch football?" Edwards: "They still have to go play football and the way they played the last couple years, it's been a little bit embarrassing" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/31). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley said, "Once again, they're putting lipstick on this pig." Wiley: "Not one single player in this world wants to play another game of football after the season" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 7/31). SI’s Andy Staples said there is "still some money to be made off of it, that’s the only reason they're doing this." Staples: "Nobody cares obviously, but there’s money to be made, so they're going to have a game” ("Rome," CBS Sports Network, 7/31).
DIMINISHING RETURNERS: In Chicago, Brad Biggs notes, "There no longer will be a spot for return specialists as an extra defensive back for each team will replace them." Bears WR Devin Hester said, "That was one of my goals for this season. I won't make the Pro Bowl. They can't do that." He added, "If you are taking the returner out of the Pro Bowl, you're taking two positions out. That will suck for me. They are trying to change up the whole game of football and they're messing with people's jobs and lives" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/1). ESPN.com's Andrew Brandt wrote, "With new Pro Bowl format, will be interested how NFL/teams deal with PB bonuses, incentives, escalators for kickers/returners" (TWITTER.com, 8/1).
TWITTER REAX: The N.Y. Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano wrote, "The new Pro Bowl rules sound very exciting ... Somebody watch it for me and let me know how it goes.” Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt posted, "The NFL doing something visionary and ground-breaking that hockey's been doing for years. #mindblown." CBSSports.com's Will Brinson tweeted, "NFL wins again (as always): networks will get the Pro Bowl itself, but @nflnetwork will get the "Pro Bowl Draft." Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel: "Like idea of Pro Bowl draft rather than conf teams, except, how hard can teammates play against each other? [I know, no one plays hard now]."
Last night's AT&T MLS All-Star Game saw a Sporting Park-record crowd of 21,175 and "drew rave reviews" as fans, players and "even MLS commissioner Don Garber lauded Kansas City and the soccer celebration it hosted" (Tod Palmer, K.C. STAR, 8/1). In K.C., Murdock & Fitzgerald noted Sporting Park "erupted when Sporting Kansas City’s MLS All-Stars were introduced." Fans "began arriving hours early," and the festivities "spilled out of the stadium in every direction, from parking lots filled with tailgating to fans lining up at the park's gates." MLS Communications Dir Will Kuhns said that the event was the "biggest all-star game the league has had" (K.C. STAR, 8/1). The AP's Dave Skretta noted the MLS All-Star team prior to last night's 3-1 loss to Serie A club AS Roma "had been 7-2-1 against international opponents since the league adopted the current All-Star game format." Roma scored an early goal that "took much of the zip out of the home crowd, which had been feverishly waving flags and pounding drums" (AP, 7/31).
YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY: In K.C., Vahe Gregorian writes last night's game "didn’t just affirm that for one night, anyway, Kansas City was the 'soccer capital of the world,' as proclaimed on a downtown billboard." It also was the "latest affirmation" that soccer's "rising tide is no fluke, fad or mere niche." Sporting KC has "enjoyed an average announced crowd of 19,709 this season -- meaning 1,242 more than capacity." There is "no denying how soccer is bearing fruit" in the K.C. market. The area was "once a barren landscape for the game." But Garber has repeatedly said it is now is "one of the great sports stories in our industry" (K.C. STAR, 8/1). Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes emphasized that the "buzz around town, the wonderful facility, another night where a passionate and knowledgeable crowd made the ground a special place as metaphors for the game's progress locally and nationally" (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/1).
A FITTING FORMAT: SI.com's Brian Straus writes the MLS All-Star Game "remains the best in sports." There were "occasional calls during the week to return to the East-West intramural format the league used to use, but those are both shortsighted and misguided." It is "fitting that the NFL on Wednesday announced its plans to remodel the Pro Bowl after the NHL's All-Star game." The Pro Bowl's new "schoolyard selection might make for interesting TV for a year or two, but it won't change the product on the field." Both the NHL and NFL events will "remain half-hearted scrimmages that mean nothing." But the MLS All-Stars and Roma "each wanted to win," and the fans "had a genuine interest" (SI.com, 8/1).
Landing the '15 MLB All-Star Game "was a coup" for the Reds and the Cincinnati region, but it will come with a $5M "price tag to fix up Great American Ball Park" for Hamilton County taxpayers, according to a front-page piece by Sharon Coolidge of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Hamilton County Stadium Dir Joe Feldkamp said that "many of the fixes on the list ... were being planned anyway and are just being sped up." But Coolidge asks, "Should taxpayers foot the bill to make the stadium shine or is it fine the way it is?" The costs related to the ASG are "just part of" the nearly $27M in "anticipated capital improvements over the next five years," including $6M for GABP and $21.8M for Paul Brown Stadium. The spending will "require approval by the three-man Hamilton County Commission, and at least one, Republican Greg Hartmann, is skeptical." Hartmann said, "I think it's unfair to ask taxpayers to pay more than the leases call for and more than is feasible. It's great that we got the All-Star Game, but my decision won't be focused on one game." County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel said that he would "like to negotiate" with the Reds and the Bengals, hoping they could "pay for some of the improvements." The county's $5M toward GABP improvements ahead of the ASG will pay for "concrete repair, painting and waterproofing" on the ballpark's exterior. The interior needs "rust removal and re-coating of metal decks." Also needed are "updates to the public address, heating and air conditioning, security and fire prevention systems." The clubhouse, press box and Diamond Club "need waterproofing; the press box and other areas need new carpets and the kitchen needs new floors" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/31).
HITTING THE TARGET: In Minnesota, John Vomhof Jr. noted the Twins and MLB on Tuesday unveiled the logo for the '14 MLB ASG at Target Field, which "features a silhouette of Target Field with the downtown skyline behind it." There also is an "alternate logo that depicts the state of Minnesota" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/30). Twins President Dave St. Peter said that ticket prices for next year's game "likely won't be released until the fall," but added that pricing is "expected to be comparable to what was charged" for last year's ASG in K.C. In Minneapolis, Michael Rand notes tickets per MLB policy are "sold only in strips" that contain "one official game program, two tickets to All-Star Fan Fest and one ticket each to the All-Star Sunday events (including Futures Game), Home Run Derby and the game itself." A single strip in '12 ranged from $377-1,077 (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/1).
Tennis players competing in the singles bracket of the U.S. Open are "getting a big raise this year," including a record $2.6M for each for the men's and women's champion, and $32,000 for everyone losing in the first round, according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. An announcement by the USTA yesterday showed the breakdown of its "across-the-board prize money overhaul," including players' per diems rising to $34.3M, up from last year's $25.5M. Runners-up will get $1.3M (up from $950,000), semifinalists $650,000 (up from $475,000) and quarterfinalists $325,000 (up from $237,500), which "all also are increases" of 37%. Players losing in the "fourth round of singles will be paid $165,000 (up from $120,000), in the third round $93,000 (up from $65,000) and in the second round $53,000 (up from $37,000)." Doubles prize money also will go up about 13%, while "paychecks for qualifying" will rise 37.5% to $1.4M (AP, 7/31).