Can Watt’s Bloody Pinkie Convince the Commish?
Although many view the Pro Bowl as a meaningless contest sandwiched between the excitement of the NFL Championship games and the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl is an additional opportunity for NFL bettors to fatten their wallets by wagering on various aspects of the game. Each year Sportsbooks set lines on the spread and over/under just as they would any other game. Although the game may not count for much in the standings, the money that can be won from the contest spends the same as that won from any other wager.
History of the Pro Bowl
The first Pro Bowl—at the time called the “Pro All-Star Game”–was played on January 15th, 1939 at Los Angeles’s Wrigley Field. The name wasn’t the only significant difference: unlike the format of today which pits NFC all-stars against AFC all-stars, the original Pro Bowl matched that year’s NFL Champion New York Giants against a cast of all-stars assembled from the rest of the league’s teams. Although initially intended to be an annual contest, the game was abandoned after the 1942 season.
The concept of an NFL all-star game was resurrected in 1950. It was at this time that the league dubbed the game the “Pro Bowl” and switched to the current format of rosters composed of all-stars from the NFL’s two conferences. From 1951-1972, this contest was played annually in Los Angeles, California.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the Pro Bowl was moved to the venue it is now permanently associated with, Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. With the exception of the 2010 game played in Florida, every game since that 1980 season has taken place in Honolulu where it serves as an significant annual source of income for the city. The only substantial change in the game during that period has been its timing; whereas it once occurred at the conclusion of the season after the Super Bowl victor had been decided, the game now takes places the weekend between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
Future of the Pro Bowl
As the Pro Bowl is the only all-star game in a major sport to draw lower ratings than its regular season games, recent years have seen increased speculation that the NFL may scrap the game entirely. The lack of fan interest in the game primarily stems from the nonchalant attitude many of the players exhibit. With blitzing and press coverage already disallowed by the revised Pro Bowl rules, defense in the game is at a minimum causing Pro Bowl contests to more often resemble a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition than an actual NFL game. Contact in the game is often nonexistent leading some to compare to the game to flag football or, worse, a pillow fight.
After criticism of the game reached an all-time high in 2012, NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell stated he was “not inclined to play it anymore” unless players approached the game with increased effort and raised the level of competition to something at least approximating that of a regular season game.
The 2013 Pro Bowl was thus arguably the most important Pro Bowl in NFL history as the very existence of the game is at stake.
2013 Pro Bowl
Although the players appeared to give more of an effort last Sunday, the results were similar to past Pro Bowl performances—comically high scoring by both teams combined with video game stat lines for most of the offensive players involved. In a game that was a blowout by the second quarter, the NFC all-stars routed their AFC counterparts in a 62-35 victory. Although the NFC unit already appeared unstoppable on offense, they were helped even further by a sloppy, five turnover performance by the AFC squad. Houston Texan quarterback Matt Schaub was the worst culprit contributing two interceptions.
Second year Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph was voted the MVP of the game after he finished with 5 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. Rudolph is a player NFL bettors should keep an eye on next season as he appears poised for a breakout season which should give the Vikings a much needed weapon on offense alongside likely league MVP Adrian Peterson and often injured wide receiver Percy Harvin.
In terms of quarterback play, nearly every player involved put up gaudy statistics that would make fantasy football players salivate—if only the game counted. Colts rookie Andrew Luck lead all players with 202 passing yards. However, it was in the third quarter that another rookie stole the show as Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson tossed three touchdown passes in a ten minute span. Wilson also did his part to help save the Pro Bowl by refusing to take a sack and risking a scramble numerous times when his pocket collapsed.
Cincinnati Bengal A.J. Green lead the AFC with 7 catches for 119 yards, one of which included a 49 yard TD catch along the right sideline—good for the longest scoring play of the game. Green is another player NFL bettors need to take note of as he projects as a top 5 receiver next season.
The highlight of the game may have been a bit of buffoonery on the part of Houston Texan J.J. Watt. Although Watt will most likely win the defensive player of the year award after finishing with an NFL best 20.5 sacks, the 6′ 5” 300 pound defensive lineman lined up offensively as a split out tight end twice to the delight of the crowd. Later, Watt humorously held up a bloody left pinky finger like some bruised gladiator and even addressed the commissioner: “Hey commish, we’re playing hard!”
Will J.J. Watt’s bloody pinkie be enough to save the Pro Bowl? In an interview, this week, Goodell did note that the level of effort exhibited by both sides seemed to increase. The NFL has said there should be a decision on the future of the all-star game by the time next season’s schedules are released in April. As always, stay tuned to SuperBowlBets.org as soon as any news breaks that NFL bettors need to hear, you can be sure you will find it reported here.