The NFL Pro Bowl has not been a very popular game to watch over the last decade. It's a nice intermission between the championship games and the Super Bowl, but it isn't exactly appointment viewing even for the most hardcore of football fans. The game doesn't matter and the players are there to have fun rather than win. Nobody wants to get hurt, so nobody tries very hard. That's fine, but the league probably isn't happy with the cratering interest in a game showcasing their stars.
They've tried to spice it up with some skills competitions and dodgeball over the last few years. It hasn't really worked. So this year, they're apparently throwing the whole idea of the Pro Bowl entirely out the window. The NFL announced today that this year's Pro Bowl game would be replaced by "a variety of engaging activities."
I have absolutely no idea what that means. The NFL doesn't either, as they essentially said in the same press release that they would be figuring it out over the upcoming months. But they need not fear, for a sports blogger is here. To give them ideas. Here are some activities that I personally would find engaging, and others might too.
Out of all the ideas the NFL had to try and spice things up, this is the best one. So just keep it. It is fun to watch high-tier athletes channel Peter LaFleur and play dodgeball. Nothing fancy here. If it ain't broke!
Tug of War
NFL linemen are some of the strongest and largest human beings on this planet. The ones who are selected to participate in the Pro Bowl are usually the largest and strongest of them all. Let's split them in half and have a tug of war with one of those absurdly thick ropes at the 50-yard line. Maybe split them into four teams and have a bracket-style face-off to determine who is the strongest of all these linemen. There are not many ways to go wrong with this. It's an easy win.
It's easy to come up with engaging activities demonstrating the strength, speed, or agility of these individuals because they are all elite athletes with ridiculous measurables in those categories. Let's get them out of their comfort zone. Let's have a cooking contest! Bring in Guy Fieri as the judge. You know that's a thing he'd love to do. Gordon Ramsey might be a harder get, but I would pay some of my hard-earned money to watch him rip into professional athletes several times larger than he is over the way they sautéed their vegetables It doesn't even have to be Chopped-style. Just get these men into a kitchen and let them (attempt to) cook.
Sustained Silent Reading
Any of you people remember Sustained Silent Reading in elementary/middle school? I sure do. I won several SSR awards for reading the most on those days. I'm sure that says a lot about me that I'm not sure is wise to put into a public forum, but I digress. I suggest the NFL have their athletes engage in a reading contest. Throw the Pro Bowl bookworms into a room, let them read a short story, discuss it, and then call it a day. Whoever has the brightest insight is declared champion by a panel of their peers. Is that engaging for everybody? No. Is it engaging for me? Yes, and it's my list. These guys probably don't have a lot of time to read with their schedules during the season. Let's do them a favor.
Wine Painting Night
This one is a long shot because the NFL doesn't have a sponsorship deal that I'm aware of with a wine company and may not want to promote drinking like that with their players. But have you ever been to one of those wine and paint nights? They're hilarious. Nobody who attends those functions knows how to paint, but the liquid courage brings out the creativity. Gather a dozen or so players who like wine and fun, have them sip some Cab, and let them go to work with watercolors. Watching abnormally muscular humans giggle over a canvas after a few glasses of red is top-tier television.
Hot Take Contest
NFL players, like pretty much all athletes, are not big fans of the hot-take industrial complex in sports media. We'd give them a chance to wear a talkshow host hat here. Put them in a studio and hold a contest, voted on by fellow players, to see who can come up with the most outrageously well-argued hot take about football they can muster. I am quite sure a guy like Baker Mayfield would leap at the chance to imitate Colin Cowherd, and it would be appointment viewing. What does Lamar Jackson think about NFL ratings? We might never know if not for this.
These are just a few of the ideas rattling around in the old attic. Free of charge, NFL. Make the Pro Bowl engaging again!