COLUMNS

End of the road

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

Most people have seen the film "Old Yeller" at some point in their lives. It's the story about the bond formed between a little boy named Travis and his dog Yeller.

Everything is warm and fuzzy until Yeller gets bit by a rabid wolf while defending Travis and his family. The damage is done, and Yeller is forever changed as the rabies take over his body.

As a result, young Travis has the sad and unenvious task of shooting Yeller to take him out of his misery.

I hope NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has seen the film because I think it's time for him to get in touch with his inner Travis.

His beloved puppy known as the Pro Bowl has fallen to its lowest point, and it's beyond saving. It's time for Goodell to just take it out of its misery and end it for good.

Just last week, the NFL announced that the game will have a totally new look in 2014.

First of all, it will no longer pit the best of the AFC against the best of the NFC. Now, all players will be mixed and matched regardless of their conference affiliation.

The two players that get the highest vote total will become team captains. They will then proceed to have a draft to fill their rosters. It's basically the same formula used by little kids in schoolyards across the country.

Besides being a pretty big shot to the egos of the guys picked last by these team captains, this new format totally defeats the purpose of an all-star game.

It's supposed to be about unity and pride in your conference. It's supposed to be about proudly declaring that your conference has better players, and it's superior to that of your counterpart.

Once you strip the conference affiliation away, it just eliminates one of the only motivating factors left for a game that many players already have a hard time taking seriously.

In addition to the new team format, there are changes to the game itself that make you wonder why they're even bothering to keep the game intact.

First off, kickoffs will be eliminated. After a team scores, the opposing squad will take over at their own 25-yard line.

Exhibition or not, a football game without kickoffs is not a football game at all. It automatically eliminates any chance for one of the most exciting moments in the game: a kickoff return for a touchdown.

And what if a team is losing late and the only way they can get back into it is an onside kick? That will no longer be an option. I know it's just an all-star game, but nobody plays to lose; every athlete with a pulse running through their body wants to win.

The elimination of kickoffs also slights return specialists like Devin Hester, Joshua Cribbs and Jacoby Jones. They are the best at what they do but with this new format, they'll most likely never make the Pro Bowl again.

In addition to those changes, two-minutes warnings will be added to the first and third quarters opposed to only the second and fourth. All this does is make the game even longer and forces us to painfully sit through more commercials.

Also, instead of possessions only changing to start the second half, they will now change after every quarter. What sense that makes, I'm really not quite sure.

These new changes brought upon by the NFL brass are supposed to make the Pro Bowl better but personally, I think they'll only make it more un-wachable.

Let's face it, the Pro Bowl has always been the most mediocre of all the all-star games. The MLB All-Star Game is the gold standard, and even the NBA All-Star Game generates plenty of interest for all the variety that it brings such as the 3-point competition and the dunk contest.

People have just never gotten excited about guys half-heartidly running around in 80-degree Hawaii weather, playing a game that takes place a week after the Super Bowl.

The NFL has tried new things to make it more appealing. For one year, they brought it to the Super Bowl site in Miami and played a week before the big game. It sounded great conceptually, but it didn't work.

There is a saying out there that accurately sums it up--everybody wants to make the Pro Bowl; nobody wants to play in it. I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Every player wants to be recognized as the best and score a free trip to Hawaii. However, after sacrificing their bodies and getting beaten to a pulp for over four months, the last thing they want to do is play in an exhibition game that counts for nothing.

That's why it's time for the NFL to just put this limping spectacle to an end. I don't think they'll get any complaints. I'm sure Hawaii won't care; it's not like their tourism market is struggling. The players will probably throw a parade.

All they really need to do is name a Pro Bowl team. If they want to have some type of event, instead of playing a game, why not have a bunch of skills competitions? As long as the players aren't having to light each other up, I'm sure they'll be on board.

But those kinds of suggestions will most likely hit the deaf ears of the NFL. As long as they can put a game on television and profit from it, they'll continue to let the Pro Bowl stumble around in misery.