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Volume 24 No. 156

Events and Attractions

NFL execs “liked what it saw from the 2013 Pro Bowl, which likely means a return for the game in 2014,” according to the Honolulu STAR-ADVERTISER. NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, “I think there is no question that the improvement we sought (from the players) was delivered.” The league had “challenged the players to put forth a better effort this year or lose the annual all-star game after commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to suspend the game following a lackluster 2012 effort." Anderson: “No question all of our people back in New York, including the commissioner, were watching carefully and intently. I think they liked what they saw” (Honolulu STAR-ADVERTISER, 1/28). NBC's Cris Collinsworth said five minutes into last night's game, which the NFC won 62-35, “The good news is that there is a pace to this game already that looks like football. I think the commissioner, who is very serious about pulling the plug on this game if it looked anything like what happened last year, is going to at least enjoy the beginning of this one.” NBC's Al Michaels said in the final minutes of the game, “Put on a heck of a lot better show than they did last year. May have saved the game.” Collinsworth added, “We had a chance to talk to the commissioner this week and he said, 'If it doesn’t pick up we’re cancelling it.' You expect effort, and I thought they gave effort today” ("NFL Pro Bowl," NBC, 1/27).

PLAYERS SAY GAME WAS COMPETITIVE: The AP's Oskar Garcia notes many NFLers are defending the Pro Bowl as “a worthy reward for top players who don't make the Super Bowl." Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph, who was named Pro Bowl MVP, said, "That was the big emphasis this week, making sure that we were competitive and I think we showed that." Garcia writes the “shenanigans were limited," but the results “were familiar -- another ho-hum Pro Bowl.” Now the future of the game “depends on how Commissioner Roger Goodell sees it.” Broncos QB Peyton Manning said, "That's for him to decide. I thought it was a good, competitive game." During yesterday's game, Texans DE J.J. Watt “showed a television camera a bloody left pinkie, joking with NBC broadcasters that it was proof that the players were trying.” But Watt also "lined up as a wide receiver on the AFC's third play fromk scrimmage," missing a pass from Manning. Meanwhile, Packers C Jeff Saturday “lined up on one play for the AFC to snap the ball one last time" to Manning. Still, if players were “coasting this time around, it was less obvious.” Referee Ed Hochuli “drew cheers when announcing a pass interference penalty" on Broncos CB Champ Bailey in the second quarter, which was the first flag of the game. Hochuli said, "Yes, there are penalties in the Pro Bowl" (AP, 1/28).

EXAMPLE OF WHY IT SHOULD END: ESPN's Mike Greenberg said Saturday playing for the AFC for one snap is the "perfect reason to explain why they shouldn’t play this game." If something similar happend in the MLB All-Star Game, “there would be a march on the offices of Major League Baseball." Greenberg: "They would be coming towards Bud Selig carrying torches saying this is a joke and they’ve made a mockery of the game" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 1/28).

Attendance for the Jan. 20-27 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at CenturyLink Center in Omaha "was 90,760," which is down from the 102,619 at last year's championships in San Jose, Calif., and "well off the record-setting attendance" of 158,170 at the '10 event in Spokane, Wash., according to a front-page piece by Erin Golden of the OMAHA WORLD-HERALD. USFS Exec Dir David Raith said that big numbers "aren't essential for a successful event -- or a requirement if a city wants to host again." Throughout this year's event, skaters, coaches and fans "raved about the venue, the volunteers and the setup of the competition." But early in the week, local organizers were "concerned about the number of empty seats in the arena, wondering what it might mean for the city's hopes of hosting future skating competitions." Omaha Sports Commission President Harold Cliff said that "walk-up ticket sales had jumped" yesterday. He added that there could be "a number of explanations for why fans didn't turn out in the numbers they did for the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in 2008 and 2012." For one, the U.S. Championships in '14 will "serve as the qualifying event for the Winter Olympic Games." In Olympic years, interest is "always higher." Local organizers have "talked about making a play for skating's 2016 World Championships, and haven't written off that idea." The U.S. Championships in '17 and '18 are "still up for grabs." Raith said that Omaha "could be a viable contender" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 1/28).