Being elected to an all-league team is a tradition in any sport. Whether being selected as a high school athlete by the local paper, one of the many all-conference selection lists (conference, coaches, writers, etc) in college, the All-Star game of MLB, NBA, NHL, or the Pro Bowl in the NFL it is an honor to participate in these events. This year set a record with 133 athletes selected to the NFL Pro Bowl. A mind-blowing 45 NFL all-stars have opted out of playing in Honolulu, Hawaii this year including all 7 New England Patriots selected for the honor. Though the Pats are an easy target, I believe that it speaks to an archaic tradition that has run its course.
The NFC and the AFC each have 44 players selected to the end of season exhibition game; 21 on offense, 18 on defense, and five on special teams. It is understandable that the 10 Carolina Panthers’ players and 4 Denver Broncos’ players that were selected are sitting this one out, because they are playing in the Super Bowl the following week.
It is also reasonable that players that ended the season with injuries needing surgery or just time to heal choose to not make the flight to Hawaii. Justified, too, are those who are in contract years who have to weigh playing in the game against future contract negotiations. After all, it is not determining home field advantage of the championship (what was MLB thinking?). The newest trend seems to be the, “I just don’t feel like it” defense. Though this allows more payers to be exposed to the pomp and circumstance, it waters down the title of Pro-Bowler. And, if players bow out, why are they still considered Pro-Bowlers?
I believe that it is time for the NFL to finally put an end to the post season exhibition. I would still select Pro Bowl players, but leave it at that, like a gold glove in MLB. The distinction should be just for those 88 players who truly earn it at the end of a season, not the 14th best QB, Jameis Winston or the 7th alternate at cornerback, the Bengals’ Adam “Pacman” Jones. It should mean something to be a Pro Bowler at the end of the year, not just something you do if you are on an NFL roster and didn’t have other plans for that weekend.