We are down to the final two weeks of the 2009 National Football League season and for the first time ever the Pro Bowl will precede the Super Bowl.
It promises to be a very exciting two weeks, and before all the pundits begin with their annual diatribes knocking the Pro Bowl, I wanted to get in a couple of comments about the league all-star game.
We all know that the nature of football as a collision sport negates some of the style and strategy used in a regular game, but when was the last time you watched the Pro Bowl and saw somebody frown?
The players are honored to be selected and really enjoy spending a no-pressure week with their peers and in many cases bring wives, kids, and a small entourage of family and friends to celebrate and enjoy the moment with them.
Anytime you receive an honor, it is just that. An honor. Who ever heard of anybody refusing one, whether it was selection to the Pro Bowl or the announcement that you have won the Nobel Prize. The grateful winners humbly accept and enjoy the fruits of their victories, as well they should.
One of the common misconceptions about the Pro Bowl, especially among media members, is that nobody watches.
Actually, that is one of the easiest theories to dispute because it involves facts that can be tracked and counted.
Each year for the last decade or so I have watched Pro Bowl ratings, and they have generally come in at about a 6-7 share, with little deviation from that general figure. While it is true that the weekly ratings for NFL football are higher, it is of course similarly true that NFL TV ratings are higher than any others, all year, all the time.
But the Pro Bowl TV figures show more viewers than anything pro basketball and pro hockey ever produce, and only the biggest of sporting events have higher television marks than the Pro Bowl.
Basically, the World Series (sometimes), the NCAA finals, the last day of the Masters, these are the types of events that have higher numbers, and they should, of course.
But I still remember one Pro Bowl in particular, when basketball great Michael Jordan came out of retirement in mid-season. The Chicago Bulls-Indiana Pacers Sunday game was the first of Jordan’s return, and it was fairly hyped as much as one could imagine by the press corps, which simultaneously chuckled about the fact that nobody watches the Pro Bowl.
Then Sunday came, and I tracked the ratings, as usual, and the Pro Bowl had a higher TV number than Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA.
So critics can say they don’t like it – that is fair. But they can’t say nobody watches.
I’ll be interested in seeing the numbers this week, with the game moved to the South Florida Super Bowl site and serving as a kickoff to a week which should run as a celebration of NFL football.
I suspect those numbers might be pretty high this week.
A lot of football fans will be watching.