The NFL Pro Bowl of the National Football League is an all-star game that exhibits to showcase the best players of the sports league. It is officially termed as the NFC-AFC Pro Bowl since 2017, teaming up the best players from the National Football Conference (NFC) against the top players in the American Football Conference.
It underwent an experiment in the selection process between 2014 up to 2016. The teams were selected by two captains honored in the Hall of Fame instead of selecting from each conference. The Pro Bowl, unlike most major sports leagues, is fixed at the end of the NFL season.
The first-ever official NFL Pro Bowl was held three weeks after the 1950 NFL Championship Game in January 1951; sponsored by the Los Angeles Publishers Association. Later the Pro Bowl was proposed to be held on the weekend after the Super Bowl between 1970 and 2009.
But since then, the NFL Pro Bowl was again shifted to the weekend prior to the Super Bowl. In the game of 2012, the lack of quality play exhibited by the players led to criticism from sportswriters as well as fans. This forced the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodwell to implement severe changes in the game rules or to abolish it completely. The league proposed hosting NFL Pro Bowl games in Brazil, Mexico, as well as Germany; preparing to lift the game outside the United States. This change was brought in to increase viewership and gain international popularity.
As of now, the coaches, the fans, as well as the players themselves are the three groups that vote for the selection. Each accounts for one-third of the votes. Online voting is scheduled for the fans on the NFL’s official website. Any selected player that denies going to the game due to injuries will be matched by replacements. Any player initially voted in the team or alternate players accepting the invitation to the game as replacements; are considered as a Pro Bowler for the given year. Before 1995, NFL Pro Bowl selections were made by coaches and players only.
The Blackout Policy of NFL Pro Bowl
According to the NFL’s blackout policies, the game was subjected to be blacked out within 121 km of the stadium; if the attendance did not max out. This was in effect prior to 2015 but was later abolished, and the game was aired within the host stadium despite the attendance.
Criticisms On NFL Pro Bowl
The vulnerable and voluntary nature of the Pro Bowls; the fear of players confronting injuries made the public view are criticized. It was more like a glamour event rather than a real sport, for decades. The compensation for participation in a Pro Bowl became a reason for star players to excuse themselves from the event, as it was quite low.
This displayed that the very best players excluded themselves from the game. This was made even worse with the introduction of voting by fans online. The voting by fans resulted in a vague and biased selection process instead of the best players. Players among the favorite teams made their way to this.
Voting by players was also faced with tremendous criticism; as it is common to see players making the same choices over the years. As a result of which even players with a very distinguishing career made their way to the Pro Bowl very few times.