Every shred of skin left glued to the couch, every hilariously unfunny Riggle's Picks, every quad box, every touchdown montage, every Dierdorf counterpoint to the very point he blabbered seconds before, every insane clock management analysis made by Phil Simms, every Quarterback X is "elite" argument, every Case Keenum is the future of the Texans comment (I haven't heard much from these guys lately), every Monday Night spent watching abysmal football, every sentence of praise directed towards Seattle's home field advantage, and every Peyton Manning touchdown pass has culminated with next weekend's Super Bowl.
The Superb Owl is not only the most illustrious of all the games we watch during the course of a year. It is also the most American holiday of the year. The first weekend in February is more Amurrican than the 4th of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Flag Day, Cinco de Mayo, and National Kazoo Day. It's a day where we all of gather in front of our ruler, the television, and gorge on 3-D Doritos and slurp down Pepsi Blue. We all come together to watch the sport that only Americans play (eh, I guess Canaydia kinda counts) and bask in the glory of helmet to helmet hits, blocks, passes, runs, and Joe Buck euphemisms. When there is a break in the action, the television showcases the products that corporations are about to stuff down the planet's throat in an attempt to make us giggle by using meme-related material. Some won't be able to enjoy the game thanks to a Super Bowl party that turned their brain into glop that is only capable of inappropriate, room silencing jokes. Additionally, if you are part of the party planning committee, boy do I have a party for you.
Four years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, I came up with a Super Bowl party idea that we have thrown every year since. This year will probably be our fourth and final Super Bowl party, so I am throwing out my proudest college accomplishment, one that ranks even higher than my 3.8 GPA and my 0-3 record in intramural playoff basketball games, out to the masses to see if someone else can utilize the format for the greatest Super Bowl party known to man.
It's a beer pong tournament with sixteen boy-girl teams (don't do guy-guy teams because testosterone+money+drinking+smack talk=perfect storm for fighting) and every duo picks a team to represent. For example, if your team is the Panthers, both you and your partner go to Target, buy a teal shirt, and draw a black kitty-cat on it; if you get really creative, you dress up like actual Panthers. Once the teams are set, write everyone's name on a piece of paper, fold them in half, toss them into a sombrero, and pull the names out until the single elimination bracket is set.
On Saturday, not Sunday because nobody wants to deal with a Super Bowl Sunday beer run, get the keg, ice, balls, and cups. Throw the keg on ice Sunday morning. In order to get your money back, you charge every team $10 or even $20 if you are a fancy pants, with the surplus going to the winner. It's the perfect party if you are in college. If you are older and able to pull it off, more power to you.
However, before we get to enjoy the Super-De-Duper Bowl, we have one more game left on the schedule... the Pro Bowl. The NFL's All Star game is merely a doggy doo-doo bag with microwaved feces frothing out of the top. On the outside, it looks like football, but inside it is just jogging with shoulder pads. The problem with the Pro Bowl is that unlike the MLB and NBA All Star games that actually resemble the sport, the Pro Bowl is nothing like the product we see on Sunday. Without blocking, real tackling, or any intensity, it is really just seven-on-seven football with offensive and defensive linemen playing patty cake.
So what has the NFL done to fix its Pro Bowl problem to try and make it a remarkable product? They let Neon Deon and Jerry Rice pick teams Backyard Baseball style that led to players taking naps in the middle of the event. I think Battle Red Blog's own Brett Kollmann was the only one who watched the entire show live, and he was paid to do it.
The NFL is delirious if it thinks that two former players picking teams would turn paint-drying entertainment into something watchable. It's the type of idea that only the NFL and a couple of old white men would think could be interesting. Hell, if they are going to let two guys pick the teams, they might as well let BFD and I do it. To quote the immortal Jeff Foxworthy, "If your own employees are sleeping during a supposedly fun event, you might be the NFL." Man, that was a horrendous joke.
Now because of the years of slog fests in Hawaii, some fans want the whole event done away with. I don't necessarily think the Pro Bowl should be smashed into oblivion like Diablo's soul stone. Just revamp it in an entertaining way. The Pro Bowl is worth keeping around because:
-The NFL still needs to differentiate the very good from the good, and the All-Pro teams leave out a large number of players that should be recognized.
-Every company throws some type of event to reward its top performers, and the NFL is a business like any other.
-People still watch it on TV. I have no idea who these weirdos are. If you are on the way home from walking your dog and you see the Pro Bowl flickering in your neighbor's living room, I think it may be time to look for a new home or apartment.
-NBC loves ad revenue and they also love squeezing every last dribble from the Cris Collinsworth-Al Michaels teat.
-I thought Andy Reid looked glorious in bright Kansas City Red, but he looks even better in a Hawaiian shirt.
-Speaking of the Kool-Aid man, the Pro Bowl jerseys look like the Kool-Aid man guzzled down high gravities all day, raided an Ice Cream truck to quench his drunkies, and then puked up his bile. Despite this, there is nothing cooler than seeing multiple different jerseys and helmets on the field at the same time.
-The Pro Bowl also brought us so many great moments, like that time Mark Bulger threw a Pro Bowl record four touchdown passes. Or that time when Adrian Peterson won the Pro Bowl MVP as a rookie. Or remember that time Peyton Manning threw for 342 yards? You don't? Well, I must admit neither did I.
Oh yeah, but it did bring us that one time when Sean Taylor destroyed Brian Moorman. When the greatest moment of an event is a strong safety tackling a punter...you probably need to overhaul it.
-Most importantly, it gives everyone a chance to watch their team's best players one last time before their shoulder pada and jerseys are tossed into the dungeon to harvest dust until this summer when training camps start up again.
-It's the best in the Pro Bowl whenever...ugh... who am I kidding? Nothing interesting happens during the actual game.
Since we all agree it needs an overhaul, let's think about what the other sports do well, other than the fact their All-Star game resembles the actual sport. Hmmmmmmm..... Ding! Ding! Ding! Every professional sports league utilizes some type of skills competition. The NBA has the shooting stars competition (no one watches it, but they get a WNBA player, a former great, and a current NBA player to play a game that resembles knockout), a skills competition, the three point contest, and the Slam Dunk Contest, which they already to need to change from the "Rising Stars Slam Dunk Contest" to the "Let's Get the Best Dunkers in the League Who Are Willing to Participate Contest." Additionally, the MLB has the Home Run Derby, and the NHL has an underrated one where we get to see the players compete in fastest skater races, hardest slapshot competitions, etc.
So why doesn't the NFL bring the feature back that they removed in 2007? Most athletes are hyper-competitive and egotistical people who thirst for the chance to prove they are the greatest in their position every chance they get. As a result, there is no way they would not welcome the opportunity to compete in this capacity again. It would also be refreshing to see these players competing without a helmet and pads; that would bring more attention to players who are unknown anonymous cogs in a machine.
Let's make this happen. I have already outlined how the NFL should manage their weekend.
Friday: The skills competition would be played so the players could spend Saturday resting for Sunday's game. Also to help motivate the players, whoever wins the event would get $25,000 of the NFL's untaxed dollars to donate to a charity of their choice. Below are the various games for the skill positions:
Quarterbacks- They should keep the one they used previously; it's perfect. In this game, there are various targets that move in a straight line down the field and the quarterbacks get points depending on where they hit the target. To sum it up, it's darts + pop and shot basketball where the goal moves + football. The only thing I would add would be bonus throws for the quarterback who throws the farthest and the one who throws the hardest. It would be awesome to see Cam Netwon throw seventy yards down the field while an Alex Smith pass bounces meekly at the thirty-five yard line.
In case you still aren't convinced the skills competition wouldn't work, this grainy found footage video of a pre-dog fighting Mike Vick throwing in the 2007 skills competition has 589,000+ views. It's also retroactively funny to see Vick being wildly inaccurate in a skills event. To top off an already amazing video, Braylon Edwards drops Vick's final throw as an Atlanta Falcon.
Running Backs- Throw them in some type of gauntlet obstacle course. I was thinking about something like this, but with less tasers (link is NSFW).
Wide Receivers- This could go two different ways. I was thinking we could take some ideas from the slam dunk contest and rate the difficulty of wide receivers catches from 1-10 in a round robin tournament. The clincher? The worst quarterback of the year is throwing the routes. So this season, we would get to see Brandon Weeden throw streaks, curls, and such down the field while Brandon Marshall acrobatically leaps for them. I would love to see receivers scowl at Weeden for one last time since he will never start another NFL game for the rest of his career. The other direction this could go would be to run a seven vs. seven drill where the best receivers line up against the best corners. However, the problem is it would be hard to differentiate between who wins and who loses.
Defensive Backs- This one is simple. We would just take the swat ball drill from Madden, ramp it up to the All-Madden difficulty, and watch the corners and safeties chase down passes across the field.
Tight Ends- I must admit, I haven't a clue other than to have them participate in the Brandon Weeden catch-off. Unless we could get every tight end to drink with Rob Gronkowski and whoever is the last one left standing wins.
Linebackers- Another one that is terribly difficult to come up with an idea for. My only idea would be to place sensors on a tackling dummy, give the linebacker a three second head start and whoever generates the most force when tackling wins. The floor is open for any suggestions for this and the tight end position.
Offensive Line and Defensive Line- The best idea would be to create a trench warfare tournament where the offensive lineman would go up against the defensive lineman in one-on-one pass drills. The center would snap the ball, and the defensive lineman would get four seconds to fight through the offensive lineman to grab the cone placed where the quarterback usually is. Whoever wins two out of three would move onto the next round and whichever position group has the last man standing would win. It would be like pass rushing meets high school dodge ball. Additionally, linebackers could rush the passer to even out the rosters so there would be an equal number of pass rushers and offensive linemen.
If we could not get them to agree to this because of the threat of injuries, we would have to do something lamer. I think an Offensive Line vs. Defensive Line tug-of-war could fill the void.
Punters- Taking another cue from the Madden mini-camp, they would kick from the fifty yard line into the corner of the end zone, which would be marked with a giant 1/4th of a circle drawn from where the end zone and sideline meet. Then that slice of pie shape would be separated into three zones: a red (most points), yellow (second most points), and green (least points). At each zone, there would be a referee spotting where each punt lands out of bounds. Any punt that results in a touchback would receive zero points. Like the other games, it would be a simple tournament where the last punter left wins.
Kickers- If you have ever played football in Texas, there has to have been a few practices where the sun is baking your skin into chocolate chip cookies where carcinogenic moles are the chocolate. During the dehydrating torture, you look over in envy at the kickers who are just practicing trick shots back and fourth. Since most of practice they offer no value, they end up killing time by kicking the zaniest shots they can come up with. Using this as inspiration, we would have the kickers play K-I-C-K-S with the goal posts. I know everyone would love to see Justin Tucker drop kick a field goal from thirty yards out that bounces off both goal posts and lands in between the uprights.
Coaches- I couldn't leave out the gargoyles who patrol the sideline. Earlier in the week, there would be a Madden tournament where the finalists would be partnered up with a head coach. The twist? The Madden players would cede all duties that a head coach does to the coach they partner up with. They would not get to call the plays, make substitutions, or manage the game clock without input from their partner. What would happen is a pizza faced teenager would be cursing underneath his breath at Andy Reid for wasting his timeout with 2:01 left on the clock. Jim Harbaugh would throw temper tantrums at the video game zebras. This would be worth it simply for the Bill Barnwell Thank You For Not Coaching article that would ridicule how the coaches mismanaged a virtual football game.
Additionally, I have a few other competitions the athletes could run.
-An egg toss between two players.
-40 yd. Dash where each positional group would run against each other.
-A cookoff with Guy Fieri and Rachel Ray teaching the players how to cook. Then they would lead their respective teams in a catering competition where the team with the highest rated dishes would win.
-Punt, Pass, Kick competition.
Saturday: Would be some sort of flag football game the legends of the past would play in. Who wouldn't love to see Kurt Warner dropping bombs to Isaac Bruce down the sideline again or Deion Sanders picking off Brett Favre with a pass intended to Jerry Rice? It would be a Madden Ultimate Team fan's most wondrous dream. The one rule would be no celebrities involved. Unlike the NBA, no one wants to see Justin Bieber throw six yard slants to Chris Brown, even if that newborn baby can throw a decent spiral.
Sunday: The actual game takes place. I have no preference whether they do AFC against NFC or if they do a high school gymnasium draft. It really does not matter because the game is going to be atrocious for the same reasons discussed earlier. The game won't resemble football no matter what the league does, unless they kidnapped a member from every player's family and then had Roger Goodell claim that the losing team's family members would be thrown into servitude. Even then, it still might not change the game and it might only lead to us finding out which players are orphans.
However, if they opt for the latter, they should model it after NFL Street's pick-up game mode. In that game you aren't pegged into taking X number of QBs, X number of WRs, X number of TEs. Instead you could take whoever you wanted from a pool of players. So if you want to run a two quarterback backfield? Go for it. Want to run the triple option with Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and LeSean McCoy? The world is yours. Want to load up on corners and not have a wide receiver? Let your inner mad scientist go wild. The current format of picking three quarterbacks, two running backs, etc stifles creativity and it turns a possibly interesting feature into nothing more than an impotent gimmick.
The underlying theme is simple. The NFL is the most popular sports league in America and it is too great of a sport to not have an incredible All-Star Game to tie in with it. All it would need is a little "Imagination" and a dash of creativity. We could turn a seven-on-seven wet blanket into a must-see event that could whet our pallet until the biggest game of the year.
If you are listening Roger, you can steal me from BRB for a few of your untaxed dollars and I can turn this event from an afterthought into the greatest All-Star game known to man.