Yesterday, two of the four major North American sports leagues held their All-Star games.
Both are horrid.
The National Football League once again staged the running joke that is the Pro Bowl. There was a time it meant something to make the Pro Bowl, but today, it’s all about bonus clauses in players’ contracts. The only reason any NFL player cares about the Pro Bowl is the cash he will be making.
Of the 88 players originally named to the Pro Bowl, 10 were members of the Super Bowl LII participants. Another 27 begged out of the game due to injury, whether or not the injury was real.
This meant 37 players who were not originally named to the Pro Bowl got an invitation, and even some of those replacements were injured themselves. Regardless of whether they were injured or not, the players collect their bonuses simply because they were a “Pro Bowler”, even if they were the fourth alternate at their position.
The NFL should eliminate the Pro Bowl. If they want to designate players as “Pro Bowlers”, fine, but then only those originally named can collect bonuses. Or why not have the NFLPA and NFL coaches vote on their own All-Pro team? It would mean a lot more to the players who were named the best by their peers than by the media, although the Associated Press All-Pro team is still pretty significant.
The NFL is constantly publicizing its drive to reduce injuries. Eliminating the Pro Bowl would help.
As bad as the Pro Bowl is, at least it is an actual football game.
The same cannot be said of the National Hockey League’s All-Star game.
Actually, it is now three mini-games of three-on-three between teams made up of players from each of the NHL’s four divisions (Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central and Pacific). The mini-games are divided into two 10-minute halves, and if the score is tied, there is a shootout.
The Metropolitan and Atlantic teams play for the “Eastern Conference” title, and the Central and Pacific teams play for the “Western Conference” title, with the first two winners squaring off again.
If this format isn’t asinine, I don’t know what is.
First, I cannot stand the NHL’s 3-on-3 overtime format in the regular season. Hockey is grueling enough with an 82-game schedule, so I believe overtime should be eliminated. Let tie games stay tied. If the NHL really wanted to reduce ties, it would adopt the association football format of three points for a win, and one point to each team for a tie (draw). The carrot of two extra points instead of one would get more teams to be more aggressive.
Second, the NHL All-Star game has usually been skating up and down the ice as fast as possible and shooting the puck as hard as possible. Checking is frowned upon. Penalties are almost non-existent, and if one is called, it is for something that would rarely, if ever, get called in the regular season or playoffs.
If the NHL wants to have an All-Star game, DO IT RIGHT. Make it real hockey, have the referees call penalties as they would in the regular season or playoffs, and no overtime and no shootouts.
The NBA’s All-Star game is a real basketball game, but defense is completely optional, if not abhorred. If a team doesn’t score at least 150 points in an All-Star game, it isn’t trying. Players will vacate the lane and let the opponent drive to the hoop unimpeded rather than standing their ground.
Major League Baseball has the best All-Star game by far, but from 2003 through 2016, there was a stupid provision where the winning league would secure home field advantage in the World Series for its pennant winner.
The only reason this came about is because the 2002 All-Star game ended in a 7-7 tie in then-commissioner Bud Selig’s hometown of Milwaukee. If Selig, who begged and pleaded with Wisconsin voters to build Miller Park for him so the Brewers didn’t leave America’s Dairyland, was so worried about a tie, he should have allowed pitchers and catchers to re-enter. Also, the manangers have to share some of the blame for the fiasco, since they were trying to play everyone so nobody’s feelings got hurt.
That’s the problem with today’s society. We have to let everyone play. We have to give out participation trophies.
But these are PROFESSIONAL athletes, not kids. They got their bonus no matter if they played in the All-Star game or not. If their ego can’t handle being a mere spectator in an exhibition game, they’re in the wrong business.
The English Premier League gets along just fine without an All-Star game. I think the four major leagues on this continent would not go bankrupt if their All-Star games went by the wayside. Maybe I’m wrong, but I didn’t watch one second of either game yesterday. And I am certainly avoiding the upcoming NBA All-Star game like the plague.