Skills Showdown succeeds, Pro Bowl suffers


The Appalachian Online

Michael Allesandro

Most of us can agree that the Super Bowl is one of the most highly anticipated live sporting events, attracting an astronomical number of viewers every year.

While the numbers have fluctuated slightly depending on the year, since 2009, Super Bowl Sunday has enjoyed at least 100 million viewers annually.

The most watched game aired back in 2015, where the New England Patriots vs. the Seattle Seahawks attracted 114.4 million viewers, according to Statista.

It’s a shame that the only redeeming quality of the Pro Bowl, which should be a celebration of the best talents that the game has to offer, is just a reminder to fans that what they really want to see is still a week away.

I’m not by any means suggesting that the Pro Bowl should be as big as the Super Bowl, but it has become less interesting and ratings have dropped steadily with each passing year.

Last year the Pro Bowl saw its lowest number of viewers in ten years with 8.8 million tuning in, and viewership has decreased every year since 2011, according to Sports Media Watch.  

This year, the game drew a 4.6 overnight rating according to NBC Sports, its sixth straight decline.

There are a lot of things that factor into the Pro Bowl being the least attractive all-star game across the four major American sports: football, basketball, baseball and hockey.

For one, it seems like every year less and less athletes are interested in participating in the exhibition.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, 37 players turned down an invitation to compete in the Pro Bowl, not including those who are playing in the Super Bowl.

This is a slight improvement over last year’s 45 players who declined, but nevertheless an alarming number.

A mere 57 percent of the players that were initially named to the Pro Bowl roster ended up competing in Sunday’s game.

To be fair, it’s not entirely the NFL’s fault for not providing an all-star game we all can appreciate. I never thought of football as an ideal sport for a fun and safe exhibition.

Football is a hard-hitting sport; that’s how it’s meant to be played and it’s not very intriguing otherwise. No players are going to risk injury for a meaningless game a majority of fans are disinterested to watch.

Something else worth mentioning is the timing. The MLB, NHL and NBA have the luxury of having their all-star games in the middle of their seasons, which serves as somewhat of a break for fans and players from a long and strenuous season that features significantly more games than the NFL’s mere 16.

The NFL is forced to hold their exhibition near the end of the season on a Sunday that falls between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl. Simply put, the Pro Bowl is overshadowed.

In light of its continuing failures, the NFL has become desperate to heighten interest in their Pro Bowl festivities.

Since it is extremely difficult to improve upon the actual Pro Bowl, the NFL needed to find another way to intrigue fans. I am thrilled to say that is exactly what they did with their new Skills Showdown.

The competition pitted 10 players from each conference against each other in five different events.

Whether it was catching balls dropped from drones at heights of up to 125 feet, determining the most accurate passer or who the strongest athletes were, or even a simple game of dodgeball, this showdown had just about everything.

My favorite had to be the drone drop challenge, which featured a lot of exciting grabs and impressive concentration.

The power relay challenge saw players lifting a 250-pound wall, pushing a 700-pound sled and ended with a running back darting across the field before smashing into a wall. This event gave viewers a glimpse at the sheer strength and speed these professional athletes possess.

It was obvious that a change was needed, and the Skills Showdown was definitely a step in the right direction.

The Pro Bowl has long been something that has not been taken seriously by fans and players alike.

This Skills Showdown was a simple event that was different and interesting. Most importantly, fans wanted to watch and players wanting to compete.

The Skills Showdown shined where the Pro Bowl suffers. It didn’t seem forced or out of place like that of an exhibition football game where no one is looking to make any sort of contact whatsoever.

The Skills Showdown provided us with an opportunity to see some of the most talented athletes in the world put their jaw dropping abilities on full display.

It is difficult to improve upon something as pointless as the NFL Pro Bowl, but the NFL’s newest addition to the all-star festivities was certainly a good place to start.
Michael Alessandro is a junior journalism major from Charlotte, NC