The Pro Bowl was played in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Sunday. That’s the same site for this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the crotch-grabbing Seattle Seahawks and the ball-deflating New England Patriots.
The game will return to Honolulu after next season, but what happens after that has not been announced. The NFL can save expenses and produce a larger crowd by doubling up the game with the Super Bowl.
The official attendance for Sunday was 63,000. The Arizona Cardinals produced this sellout by offering tickets at close to regular-season prices to its season-ticket holders who couldn’t afford the outrageous sum required for Super Bowl admission.
The AFC vs. NFC format was dropped for the game played in January 2014. The players were selected by voting without regard to conference. Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders were designated to choose up sides. Cris Carter and Michael Irvin did the same for Sunday’s game.
The final score was Team Irvin 32, Team Carter 28. Allegedly, a good time was had by all.
That was what the Associated Press game story indicated, anyway, with this passage:
“The Pro Bowl in the desert was all about having a good time.
“Few moved very fast, no one flattened a quarterback and there were no bone-jarring hits in the gentle, friendly version of football played Sunday.’’
I watched for a few minutes at the start. On the game’s third play, DeMarco Murray – playing for one team – ran to the left side and was held up by three players from the other team. He was not tackled, simply detained for a second, and a whistle blew to stop play.
The crowd booed.
Apparently, everyone got used to absence of aggression as the evening progressed, and the reviews were that the several rules changes made the game more interesting and “fun.’’ The radio crew I listened to for a few minutes couldn’t stop gushing over the efficiency of the referee using a tablet and a headset to determine the outcome of a review, rather than sticking his head under the hooded, sideline peep machine.
The fellows in the booth, and also the sideline reporter, made certain to mention he was using a Bose headset, which we all know is the official NFL headset, ever since San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was fined $10,000 for wearing Beats to a post-game media session.
Silly as it was, the Pro Bowl was not the silliest All-Star Game played on Sunday. That distinction belonged to the NHL skate-around in Columbus, Ohio.
The NHL originated the idea of choosing up sides. The final score this time was Team Toews 17, Team Foligno 12. I have to admit, I had never heard of Nick Foligno (a Columbus player) until reading that he had been given the duty to pick a side.
This was the 15th NHL All-Star Game played in the past 21 years. Three games were cancelled due to owners’ lockouts of players in labor negotiations, and three games were not played because NHL players were participating in the Olympic tournament.
Who was playing for what team – for the Jonathan Toews crew or the Folignos – was so indistinguishable that a half-hour after the game finished, I saw the ESPN crawl had the score as, “Team Foligno 17, Team Toews 12.’’
The NFL offered an all-star event that bore no resemblance to the actual game played during the season, not even the first and fourth exhibition games of August that mostly feature 100 percent scrubs and wanna-bes.
The NHL offered an All-Star Game where players don’t get bounced, much less hit. There were 41 players in uniform on Sunday, including three rookies who were designated for the skills competition but wound up playing in the game because of late dropouts (including the never-available Sidney Crosby).
The NBA All-Star Game will be as much a no-defense fiasco in a couple of weeks as was the NHL’s.
Yet, what All-Star Game gets the most heat? Baseball’s, even though it’s the only one where a replica of the actual game is played, where dropouts are few, and where there’s something at stake to make it interesting.
The New York Times had an interview with new commissioner Rob Manfred and he was asked about the controversy of attaching “home-field advantage’’ to the All-Star Game.
Manfred said: “I’m in favor of it staying … I think the one thing that’s very, very difficult to argue with is when we went to the home-field advantage rule, the way the game was played by the players, how seriously they took it, changed and changed for the better.
“Why you’d want to go backwards on that issue is something that really escapes me.’’
Me, too, Commish.