The Pro Bowl Isn't About You

Following the Super Bowl, the NFL's best, or at least the most relevant players get together in gorgeous Honolulu, Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. But who are the players really playing for?

Sure, the Pro Bowl doesn't carry with it the importance of home-field advantage in the World Series, a la Major League Baseball's All-Star game, and it doesn't have the can't miss slam-dunk and three-point contests like the NBA All-Star game, but it is still vitally important and a great honor to those who are here in paradise.

I'm not going to make a case that the Pro Bowl game is must watch television, because it's not. The all-out, gladiator like effort on every play in every game, however meaningless a game may be in terms of postseason, makes the NFL a must-see event every single week. Even if there is a lousy game on Monday night, America is still tuning in. The Pro Bowl doesn't feature that type of win or else effort where people are flying around the football field trying to decapitate each other.

I asked Denver Broncos Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall how important winning this game is, and this was his response—

"It's a pride thing, at the end of the day we all want to go home healthy," Marshall admitted. "We want to have a fun game, an entertaining game, and a lot of what's brought a lot of people out here so we want to get that big check so we can pay for all our guests."

The winning players get a $40,000 check, and the losing team gets $25,000. The $15,000 pre-tax difference may not mean a bunch to players with huge contracts such as Peyton Manning, but it's a sizeable sum to guys who are on their rookie deals like Brandon Marshall and Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Still, this game is more about vacation than it is winning, and most players are not on board with the game moving away from the island next season.

"I think Miami will be nice, but I love it here, it's Hawaii," former Bethune-Cookman College and now Green Bay Packer Nick Collins said. "It's really a vacation."

Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl champion linebacker James Farrior was a little less politically correct when he was asked about the game moving to the mainland.

"This is beautiful, there's nowhere else I'd rather be, Farrior said with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looking on. "Now that I'm in Hawaii, I'm going to relax and sit back."

Sitting back and relaxing has been pretty much the tone of the trip for seemingly all of the athletes. The practice sessions looked entirely different than anything you would see at even the softest spring mini-camp, especially the Texans mini-camps. Offensive linemen are standing around in groups, playing little games bouncing the footballs, receivers are jogging routes, and quarterbacks are laughing as they throw the ball.

"This whole thing has been pretty much a vacation," Texans star defensive end Mario Williams said.

At practices, there are no position coaches screaming, no people diving for balls, players wearing hats instead of helmets, and ridiculous trick plays that most of us haven't seen since the days of sandlot football. Instead it's just a celebration of hard work displayed throughout the regular season and a way that players from each of the teams represented with the exception of the champions can sun and party away the disappointments of falling short.

"It hurts," Arizona Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson said of his team's narrow Super Bowl defeat. "I would have rather lost by 30 than the way we did."

Everyone is genuinely having a great time and it's a great consolation prize for the losing coaching staff from the conference title games. Maybe that's why Andy Reid has headed up the NFC roster four times?


Owen Daniels (Marcos Garcis/AP)
The Pro Bowl also allows players to interact, and meet some of their heroes growing up. I asked Owen Daniels if there was anyone that made him a bit "star-struck" this week.

"Peyton Manning," Daniels responded with a smile on his face. "Even though we play against him twice a year, I've never really met him before. He's one of the nicest guys around, and he took time out to have a conversation with me, as we were hanging around the pool and stuff. I was like, ‘oohh, that's Peyton Manning!'"

The laid back nature of the Pro Bowl game is certainly contradictory to what makes the NFL America's passion, but before you talk about doing away with the game, remember that it's the last bit of football you will get until late summer. And if you still hate the game, it doesn't matter. It's not about you, it's about them.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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