I am a football junkie and have been since about the age of 4 according to my parents. I am also a Pittsburgh Steelers fan that grew up in the deep south during the 1970\’s and 1980\’s as well and was always starved for any and all Steelers football that I could get my eyes on. The game of football captivated me as a child and I can remember reading the Monday morning box scores of all the games and reciting statistics of all my favorite Steelers players at a moments notice. I knew who all of the NFL teams were and all of the great players on each of those teams. Like I said, I was and still am a football junkie.
After the Super Bowl every year, luckily which included the Steelers quite a bit throughout the 70\’s, I can always remember watching the Pro Bowl that followed. The good thing was that you could actually see some of the NFL greats play that you had never seen play before. It was like having your football cards come to life. I would spread all of the players cards out that were playing in the game so I would know who was who under each helmet. Back in those days the players actually played and you would have never have known, at least not as a child, if any players were mailing it in. It was football.
Also around that same time there was a sports show called the Superstars. If you are old enough to remember, you know the show I am talking about. It featured athletes competing against each other in various events that included various track and field type events, swimming and an obstacle course. There were other events I am leaving out, but those were the highlights. I really enjoyed watching the Superstars and I was thrilled when they spun that off into the Superteams version. The Superteams show pitted the two teams that played in the Super Bowl and World Series against each other in events similar to the Superstars model before it. I remember the tandem bike riding, the relay races, the obstacle course and the tug-of-war. It was fantastic television, especially if you were a young Steelers and football fan in general like I was. They always had great interviews with the players and it made for great reality television in my opinion. Like I said, I grew up in a great period of time.
I think you can see where I am going with this and David Todd and I talked about it today on the latest episode of the Terrible Podcast as well. The Pro Bowl has become, for a lack of a better word, a joke. It didn\’t just happen mind you, but it seems to be getting worse by the year. Several players have even come out and said as much, as Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers have both weighed in roughly the same sentiments about the yearly All-Star game. I will admit the game did have its moments this past Sunday, mostly two great catches by Miami Dolphins wide receivers Brandon Marshall and a sporadic hit or two, but outside of that it was blah. I was surprised to see how good of ratings it still received, but believe they owe the fans more and can even make the ratings even better.
I understand and respect the whole injury thing nowadays. These players are not trying to earn roster spots or tune up for the regular season like they do in the preseason games. They have too much to risk financial in a meaningless All-Star game. I get it. The Pro Bowl players of years gone by however surely laugh at the Pro Bowl game that is played nowadays, and with good reason. It\’s simply not football.
I do not have the perfect solution for the problem, but I think they could take a cue from the Superteams competition from many moons ago, and mix it with a game of flag football to get to a better place. Maybe even keep the actually game in pads for those that actually want to play it like it should be played. Can you imagine a tandem bike race with Ben Roethlisberger, Ray Lewis, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darrelle Revis pedaling for the AFC against a NFC foursome of Drew Brees, Tony Gonzalez, LeSean McCoy and Brian Urlacher? What about a relay event that featured Mike Wallace and Roddy White running the final legs of the race? What about 100 yard dashes, obstacle courses with that big wall and a team tug-of-war? Every event would earn points for either side and it could taped early in the week to be broadcasted on Saturday, with the game staying on Sunday. I bet the players would love it.
Is it a far-fetched idea to see this type of stuff incorporated into the current format and week? Perhaps, but if the players are going to be paid and given the free vacation to Hawaii, shouldn\’t they do more than they are doing now? Would more players who back out of the game, go instead? Who knows for sure? Pro Bowl voting has become a popularity contest, but that is an argument for another post. We want to see these players play and compete and it doesn\’t necessarily need to be at football either. There is a way to make the Pro Bowl better for both the players and the fans and maybe the old Superstars format can be a part of that.
Maybe I am just old school or am in a nostalgic time in my life right now, but if you have better ideas than this one, feel free to add them below in the comments. Before I end this post though, I give you the video of the epic 1975 Superteams tug of war between the Steelers and Minnesota Vikings that lasted 16 minutes. I was about 7 years old at the time and remember this like it was yesterday. It might not have been actual football, but it satisfied the football junkie in me to see my favorite football players compete.