Mark 2010 down as the year the NFL decided to make a couple of interesting changes in their annual calendar. No, they are not changing the dates of their Annual NFL Meeting in Orlando, Florida, as much as that would be world news! Instead, the league is making a couple of changes to try and increase interest in two of their events; one that already commands more and more attention each year, and the other an event that, well, doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves.
I’m talking about the annual collection of the NFL's best as voted by players, coaches and now fans; and the game they all star in. Since 1980, the game has been held in Hawaii and served as a vacation for the players selected to the honored event. This year however, the leys of Hawaii are going to be replaced by the similar backdrop shots of Palm Trees in Miami, Florida. Yes, the same Miami that will be hosting the Super bowl, only this year, the Pro Bowl comes first!
The NFL feels the Pro Bowl game has lost interest in the eye of the casual fan, or the ones who tune in to the Super Bowl as its only exposure to the game. As a result, the NFL is hoping by scheduling the 'All Star' event the week BEFORE the Super Bowl, more viewers will tune in, and visitors to the host city may come a week earlier to attend both events. Either way you look at it, there is a Win/Win feeling for the league if it all works out as planned.
There are some obvious, and some not so obvious problems that could creep up. For starters, the NFL has decreed that NO Super Bowl Players can be allowed to participate in the Pro Bowl. For many years, the team that wins the Super Bowl is often the best team in the league, and the team that has the most amount of players invited to the game. Now they wont be allowed to play. Another potential dimming of the deal is the location of the Pro Bowl will be the location of the Super Bowl. It's all good when it is in Miami, or San Diego, or even Tampa Bay. But in 2012, the Pro Bowl Players will be turning in their leys for a visit to.....Indianapolis?
Much as with the other change this year, the difference will be in the amount of viewers, something the NFL Draft has not had a problem with over the last decade or so. Each year it seems, the interest in the selection of collegiate players by NFL teams gets more and more popular, and the NFL has tried a variety of ways to tap into that energy that is growing.
This year, that event officially goes Prime Time. Starting on a Thursday night at 7:30 PM EST, the NFL will hold only the first round on the first night to really peak the interest. The draft, formerly a two-day event, will now go the way of the three-day spectacular, and if it goes as expected, will become the premier televised sporting event of the year besides the broadcast of the Super Bowl itself.
Time will tell which direction the NFL is heading, but its my feeling the Draft will get even more attention, and the Pro Bowl will end up back where it's been for the last 30 years.