Plenty of football fans took to Twitter on Sunday evening to tell the world of their disinterest in the Pro Bowl game. That said, many tuned in to watch what became a rather entertaining exhibition.
Greg Aiello reported via Twitter on Monday afternoon that the game, which aired on NBC in prime time, drew 11.4 million viewers. It was, according to Aiello, the country's most-watched all-star game of the past year.
That said, it's not all good news for the NFL regarding the Pro Bowl. Sports Business Daily reported via their website that the game did a 6.7 overnight rating, the lowest since 2009. The rating for the telecast was also, according to the SBD report, down 13 percent from a year ago. This year's edition was going up against the Grammy Awards.
The NFL changed the format of the Pro Bowl for 2014. Rather than having AFC vs. NFC, Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders drafted two squads, and portions of that selection process aired on NFL Network. Team Rice won 22-21, and Carolina Panthers running back converted the game-winning two point conversion with 41 seconds left in regulation.
Perhaps most interesting about the game this year was that the draft set up possible scenarios where players on the same club would face off in the Pro Bowl. That scenario made for the most memorable moment of the evening, when Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward sent Cleveland teammate Josh Gordon upside down via a low hit. The Browns wide receiver was fine, and the two politely acknowledged each other after the play.
Ward may leave the Browns in March through free agency, meaning that his hit on Gordon could have been a preview of an encounter to come later on down the road.
The league's latest attempt to add interest in the Pro Bowl didn't keep the game from feeling more like high school squads going through the motions than an actual NFL event. Play was sloppy, largely because of rainy conditions, and the offensive lines of both teams took snaps off in each quarter. For me, at least, the game really dragged on in the second half.
Every year, the idea is floated out that by fans that the NFL should just completely eliminate the Pro Bowl. What those people fail to understand is that 11 million people watching what is a meaningless football game is an impressive amount; it's impressive for the league, for the channel, and for advertisers. The league is going to have stations interested in hosting the game, even if it's the NFL Network, and thus it's going to continue on for the foreseeable future.
Then there's the fact that the players who are among the best of the best look forward to the trip to Hawaii every year. Any and all comments about the guys involved being wealthy aside, the game still represents a family vacation in and around Honolulu. That is not something that those within the NFL Players Association will be willing to give up for no real good reason.
The irony with this post is that I'm just as bad as any NFL fan who claims that he/she could not care less about the game. All-star games in all other sports don't do it for me, and yet I find myself at least checking out the Pro Bowl each and every January. It was no different this time around. I even found myself on the edge of my seat watching the final minute of the game.
Even when the TV rating is lower than in the past, the NFL remains the king of North American professional sports. Diehard fans of the league would watch games seven days of the week if they aired. Events such as the Pro Bowl and the Hall of Fame game aren't going anywhere.
You're grateful for it, even if you don't want to admit it.