This year's Pro Bowl will be the most influential all-star event in recent history. Virtually every pro series in the United States incorporates an all-star event into their schedule, but the NFL's is unique in that it comes at the end of the season. It's always been an afterthought, but if nothing changes this year, it's possible it'll be gone forever.
The first thing to remember about the Pro Bowl is that it's not a normal football game, but it is still a game nonetheless. The Pro Bowl has seen ever declining levels of play over the past decade, and it's that drop in play that has led Roger Goodell to threaten to pull the game for good.
That's what makes this season special. Peyton Manning will lead the AFC for what could be the final time, but that's not the way it could end. There's been a push by the players this year to up the level of play in an effort to save their yearly celebration of the NFL's best. Here's what has to happen to save the Pro Bowl.
The players have to do their jobs; that is, the players have to play hard. This is still a football game, and it should be treated as such.
The fans have to show support. There will be one football game this weekend, and it's a glorified exhibition. Still, we love football, and after the Super Bowl, it'll be a long time until we see it again. We might as well show our support and fill up on the all-star event.
Players and coaches need to get vocal. If it's apparent that no one cares about the Pro Bowl, the simple solution is to retire the tradition. If players and coaches really care, they have to be vocal supporters of the game.
The Pro Bowl is all about celebrating the season that was with a week long vacation of friendly competition. The Super Bowl, now the last game in the NFL season, has taken on that "celebrate the season" attitude, but that doesn't make the Pro Bowl irrelevant. The game is one of the NFL's great tradition. The field will be packed with this generation's best players, many of whom will be in the Hall of Fame in the future. Here's to hoping this weekend's Pro Bowl isn't the last NFL all-star game.