As a college football fan, I don't care much about the NFL. If anything, I dislike it, as one of our local news channels is now running Green Bay Packer reports 365 days per year, thus forcing me to try to remember which channel that is so I can avoid it. Despite things like this, however, I've always admired the NFL's business model and business acumen (including its recent settlement of the concussion litigation on terms so favorable that the deal was rejected by a judge as being unfair). But my admiration of the NFL is waning. Why?
First, because the NFL is holding the Super Bowl outdoors in New Jersey. Until now, the Super Bowl has always been played in warm climates, or at least in a dome. And this makes sense, as fans don't want the quality of play affected by cold or snow, and certainly don't want to vacation in New Jersey in the dead of winter. Unsurprisingly, thanks to this year's chosen location, ticket values are way down compared to previous years, and the league is already contingency planning for the very real possibility of disastrous weather. So I think it would be fitting if New Jersey is hit with a snowstorm and then a cold snap that puts the high temperatures at the sub-zero level -- a wonderful treat that we Wisconsinites have already enjoyed this winter, and will enjoy again this coming week. But this bizarre Super Bowl scheduling is actually the lesser of the NFL's two recent gaffes.
The NFL's second gaffe is the Pro Bowl. There are no problems with the location there -- Hawaii will be lovely, I'm sure. The problem is that the NFL has taken an already meaningless yet potentially dangerous game and turned it into a meaningless, dangerous, and embarrassing game. This year, in order to drum up interest in a dead dog, the NFL is determining teams not by conference affiliation, i.e., AFC v. NFC, but by a fantasy draft model. That's right: two former players are picking the teams just like millions of fans do when picking their fantasy football teams each year. But the potentially embarrassing result of this nonsense is that, during the game, we could have a quarterback throwing to a receiver on his real-life NFL team . . . who is about to be lambasted by a safety or linebacker from the same, real-life NFL team.
Unlike my wish for bad weather for the Super Bowl, I certainly do not wish injuries on anyone in the Pro Bowl. But if a multi-million dollar star player is injured by another player from the same team, the NFL is going to have a lot to answer for.
In any case, here's how to fix both gaffes for next year and beyond. First, with regard to the Super Bowl, play the game in Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium, or at least in a warm climate, every single year. And second, with regard to the Pro Bowl, end that meaningless game immediately. The fans won't even notice when it's gone. But if you insist on giving an additional "reward" to players to honor their performance during the year, replace the game with an Emmy-like awards ceremony. Sure, no one will watch, but other than bruised egos for those who don't win, no one will be hurt, either.