By Steve Silverman
(CBS) The biggest joke in sports is about to get funnier. A lot funnier.
The NFL Pro Bowl has been the worst of the four all-star games in the major sports for years. While this does not seem like a huge problem for the all-powerful NFL, it has become an embarrassment.
In many ways, it would be difficult to avoid this joke of a game. When you have the best players in the world playing against each other in a Hawaiian paradise after months of intense competition, you are going to have a hard time convincing even the most competitive of these players that this game carries any weight whatsoever.
Players have bonus clauses in their contracts for being named to the Pro Bowl, not for dominating the game.
Players don’t want to get hurt in this game. The last time the Pro Bowl meant anything was the 1970s. That was the decade after the NFL competed with the late, lamented American Football League and there was still a true rivalry between the AFC and the NFC. Many of the old AFL stars were playing in the AFC and they wanted to pay back the NFC players for their perceived arrogance.
But by the end of the 1970s, the old AFL-NFL rivalry was all but gone and the Pro Bowl became a waltz done at a very slow speed.
Roger Goodell acted like he was ashamed of what was going on, and he threatened to pull the plug on a game that became the exact opposite of what NFL football was supposed to be all about.
The commissioner has relented, but what they are about to do the game is even more of a sham than what had been going on.
Keep in mind that the NFL is serious and this is not the figment of a sportswriter’s imagination:
A Pro Bowl draft will be held Jan. 22 for the game, which will be held four days later in Hawaii. Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders and two NFL.com fantasy football players will pick the teams.
The idea behind this development is to make the Pro Bowl “the ultimate fan-friendly competition,” according to the NFL.
What a joke. The NFL is going to let a couple of fantasy football league champions select the rosters. Simply insanity.
But once the players start competing, the rules of football will be changed for the game. No kickoffs. Each team will start at their own 25 at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
Two-minute warnings will be given at the end of each quarter, not each half. The clock will stop on running plays that do not gain yardage inside the two-minute warning of each quarter. This is done to avoid taking a knee and running out the clock.
The clock will start after incomplete passes as soon as the referee marks the ball ready for play.
Getting rid of kickoffs appears to be Goodell’s priority. This idea has come up before and it robs the game of its fabric.
However, making the offensive team advance the ball on running plays is a decent idea. Starting the clock after an incomplete pass will make the game move faster.
But these ideas will not work and the Pro Bowl will remain a joke because the players don’t care. The idea is to get a free trip to Hawaii and to not get hurt.
Nothing is going to change that.
Trying to implement new rules with players who don’t care in the first place is ridiculous. The NFL will do this for one or two years and that will be it. The Pro Bowl is going through its death rattle and nobody will miss it.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.