I had what I thought was a really good idea of what the NFL should do to replace the Pro Bowl as week-before-the-Super-Bowl entertainment. Please, allow me to share it with you.
Imagine a kind of Academy Awards of football, a cross between Hollywood and the ESPY awards. Stars of the game, past and present, would abound. Imagine Joe Montana saying: "In the category of best crunch-time drive of the season, the nominees are," and then, "the winner is."
In my idea, there is no Pro Bowl game, but there are AFC and NFC all-star teams. The same selection process would apply, except the voting wouldn't be halted until the regular season is complete and the teams wouldn't be announced until the awards ceremony the week before the Super Bowl.
What better way to celebrate the season played than with a glitzy, made-for-TV presentation that would feature the season's highlights? It's the perfect time to present the MVP, coach of the year, defensive player of the year, etc. I can even envision the day when someone uses the platform to make a political statement.
All of this flashed through my head as I watched the defensive linemen in Sunday's Pro Bowl stand up and stop their rush, standing there waiting for the quarterback to throw the ball as though this was one of Jack Del Rio's mock games. Come to think of it, the Pro Bowl was like a mock game.
I thought to myself, "Man, the fans are gonna scream about this," but they didn't. Monday came and the fans didn't scream. The talk-show boys did, the writers did, but the fans didn't.
What I got in my inbox on Monday was a lot of fans delighting in the performance of Jaguars quarterback David Garrard, about whom it was said he didn't belong in the Pro Bowl. "Take that," the fans said in their support of Garrard and his stellar performance.
Hmmm, I thought. Who am I to tell people what they should like?
The TV ratings are in and they send a very strong message. The message is that Sunday's Pro Bowl was a ratings bonanza. It even held its own against the Grammy's. The Pro Bowl was such a hit that the boys in the league office will likely wear a smile on their faces the whole week leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl.
Here's the release the NFL sent out:
"Following a record-setting regular season and playoffs, the NFL posted the most-watched Pro Bowl in a decade. The 2010 Pro Bowl on ESPN was watched by an average of 12.3 million viewers, the most for a Pro Bowl since the 2000 Pro Bowl (13.2 million viewers on ABC) and a 40 percent increase from last season (8.8 million viewers on NBC)."
Whoa! I think we can cancel my idea about an awards presentation because nothing speaks louder than a sold-out stadium and a 40 percent increase in TV ratings.
The fans have spoken. They want the Pro Bowl, regardless of who the quarterbacks are and what the defensive linemen do.
The 12.3 million viewers also mark the largest viewership for any All-Star game ever on cable television.