On April 26th 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the possibility of suspending the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl as a result of the low quality shown in the 2012 Pro Bowl. The lack of competition during the game is reflected through high criticism from fans and declining viewership ratings.
The Pro Bowl has consistently drawn in a large audience but not enough to call it a money maker for the NFL. According to Nielsen, the 2012 Pro Bowl recorded an 8.1% drop in ratings when compared to the 2011 Pro Bowl, which drew in 12.4 million viewers. The highest television audience recorded was 13.5 million during the 1997 contest.
Exhibited as the NFL’s gridiron all-star game, the Pro Bowl matches up the best players from the American Football Conference and National Football Conference. Pro Bowl players are selected by coaches, fellow players, and fans who can vote on the NFL’s official website.
A common flaw in the game is that many of the players selected to play in the Pro Bowl either perform half-heartedly, with defense rarely being played similar to a friendly game of two-hand touch, or simply choose to skip out on the event altogether. One of the major concerns is players risking injury in what is widely viewed as a recreational end of the season fan fest.
Due to these injury concerns the NFL Pro Bowl traditionally takes place at the end of the season — as of 2010 the event was moved to the week before the Super Bowl. Consequently, these top players competing in the league’s big game are not able to participate in the Pro Bowl.
When compared to other American major sporting events the competitive advantage of the NFL Pro Bowl is not the same. For example, in Major League Baseball the winning National League or American League team is rewarded with home field advantage in the World Series. The MLB stipulation created more of a competitive atmosphere during the All Star event.
The Pro Bowl has been a tradition since 1951, and continued with the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970. The first NFL Pro Bowl was hosted in Los Angeles California at Old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and continued to be held at this site until 1972.
Hawaii’s capital of Honolulu and Aloha Stadium has been the major host site of the NFL Pro Bowl since 1980. Hawaii’s Aloha Stadium provided the NFL with a venue to showcase talent outside of the North American mainland — promoting the sport and introducing the league annually to a new fan base.
From 1980 to 2010, Pro Bowl weekend attracted sold out crowds to Aloha Stadium. In 2010 the NFL decided to test out the Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium in Florida, home to the Miami Dolphins and the same location as that year’s Super Bowl. The 2010 Pro Bowl brought in the highest attendance in more than 50 years with 70,697 attendees.
In 2011, the game returned to Aloha Stadium for a two year contract which expired after January’s game. As of right now the future of the Pro Bowl does not seem promising, it will be interesting to see if the officials come up with a new format to increase the quality of game play making it something fans will look forward to watching annually.