Last Thursday the Associated Press reported that the NFL could suspend the 2013 Pro Bowl while the league determines the game’s future. There are a few reason to think that the game would be cancelled but the NFL insists these talks revolved around the ‘quality of the game’. That reason did not make our top three. The general consensus is that the NFL Pro Bowl is the worst “all-star” event there is . . . it’s just not a game made for the format. The NHL and NBA All Star games work because they are playground style games that do not require much preparation and planning and with baseball it is about pitchers throwing their pitches. Football is a different breed when it comes down to planning, preparation and schemes, and when the bodies are beaten and bruised from an entire season (unlike NHL and NBA who do it at the halfway point), the defensive guys aren’t going to be hitting anyone out there – who would?
For starters the game was moved to the week before the Super Bowl and many of the players that participate in the NFL’s premier event are not available for the game. In addition, many players do not participate if they are nicked up in any way, after all it is a voluntary game. And finally football is a violent game, so many players ‘mail in’ their performances to avoid the potential for injury. So if the players don’t really care, why should we as fans care about the game? Basically the NFL Pro Bowl has become glamour event more than a football game
Another reason is that nobody watches. The NFL is all about revenue and the declining viewer stats for the Pro Bowl make for less advertising dollars. The ratings for the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl broadcast on NBC Sunday night dropped 8.1% to a 7.9 meaning roughly 10.74 million people were watching. The game drew an 8.6 rating the year before on Fox. Each televised regular season game averages better than 17.5 million viewers. Less viewers every year means less revenue from advertising.
But really, the #1 reason that the NFL is thinking of cancelling the Pro Bowl? Nobody Bets on it.
We tapped several sportsbooks offshore for their take on the game. What was reiterated by most books was that since the game isn’t watched much and is bet accordingly. most of the action is public action – playing over the total – and while the actual volume of wagers isn’t bad, the volume in terms of dollars is not noteworthy. Diamond Sports gave us some great insight into the game. “Sharps may dabble here and there if the number gets out of hand with over bettors, but sides don’t get out of hand either way. You would see much more line movement both on the side and total than typical – but that movement reflects the notion that not much volume comes on the game so the moves are quicker, yet on less action.”
The DSI representative went on to say that during the regular season there are usually “6-7 games that are bet heavily, 4 bet moderately, and then there are 4 duds. The NFL Pro Bowl gets about half the action that a regular Sunday ‘dud’ would get.”
So nobody watches, nobody cares and nobody bets on the NFL Pro Bowl. Maybe it is time to just let the game go and hand out the awards at a banquet.