Many people feel they know everything there is to know about the NFL, including facts like when the original AFL and NFL merged to form the modern-day NFL and which teams that exist today originally played somewhere else. They may even be able to name all of those teams that no longer exist in league play. But when it comes to the Pro Bowl, even NFL fanatics and sports fans may find that they don't know quite as much as they think. It’s not entirely their fault. The Pro Bowl and the Probowlers are their own can of worms, a fact which we hope to explore.
With its inability to match the ratings of regular season NFL games, the Pro Bowl does have its fair share of detractors. However, where else can NFL fans see their favorites from different teams all playing together at the same time? Historically, Probowlers had the advantage of playing in Hawaii and being paid to do it. Currently, the Pro Bowl is played in Orlando. (Probowlers still have little cause for complaint.) The Pro Bowl is similar to other all-star type tournaments held by other major American sporting pastimes; yet as we shall see here, the Pro Bowl does have some quirks that not only sets it apart but may surprise even the most stalwart fans.
What Is the Pro Bowl? Who Are the Probowlers?
The Pro Bowl is an all-star game held by the National Football League. Probowlers are chosen by the vote of NFL coaches, fans and the players themselves. Fans cast their vote on the NFL website. Each voting group counts for one-third of the total votes meaning the votes of coaches, players and fans as a group are all weighted equally. This may be considered a way for the fans to have their favorite players represented while also making sure that some professional standard is maintained in the game by way of the votes of coaches and players.
The Pro Bowl is played after the end of the regular season and the post-season. In the past, it was played after the Super Bowl, but it is currently played a week prior. Although Probowlers come from various teams, they do not wear their individual uniforms as organizers feel that that might get a bit confusing for fans, not to mention the players themselves. Players play according to conference although there were a few years in which players were selected onto their teams by team captains.
Pro Bowls are notable both to players and fans because Probowlers can tout their selection onto the team as an accomplishment. Pro Bowls are also significant because of the player awards that are given after the game. There was formerly a Player of the Game award given for the most outstanding player in the Pro Bowl, at least according to vote. Now, Outstanding Offensive Player and Outstanding Defensive Player awards are given to the players felt to best represent those roles. The Pro Bowl is a chance for fans to see their favorite players all on the field at one time. It is also an opportunity to see what the NFL as a league can offer when all of the best players are lined up to play against one another, at least the best players according to vote.
Criticism of Probowlers have focused on the event being more of a staged event rather than a real competition, though winners do receive a fatter paycheck compared to their less fortunate colleagues, who receive a bit less. Also, players can and have declined to play in the Pro Bowl, which should not come as a surprise as the compensation is pretty meager compared to what a star player earns.
What Makes the Pro Bowl Unique?
There are many things that make the Pro Bowl unique, but one of them is the idea that the all-star game has been played for about 80 years. Although various aspects of the game have changed over that time, the Pro Bowl still exists as a testament not only to the longevity of American football and its rules but as a staging ground for the best players to "show their stuff." The Pro Bowl is also unique in that it is typically held in a special venue rather than a normal NFL venue. For many years, the Pro Bowl was held at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
5 Things You Didn't Know about the Pro Bowl
There are probably a lot of things that the average sport fan does not know about the Pro Bowl, but we only have room for five so we’ll focus on some of the standouts. The Pro Bowl is somewhat anomalous in the NFL because as an all-star game, it doesn’t have an impact on the other games of the season or the Super Bowl, but it is a chance for players to sort of strut a bit. It is also an opportunity for fans to see their favorite players who may not have made it to the Super Bowl play one more time before the season starts up again in about eight months. Without further ado, here are the five things that you didn’t know about the Pro Bowl (and some Probowlers).
The First Pro Bowl Was Held in 1939
The first NFL all-star game (let’s face it, that’s basically what it is), was held way back in 1939, which is more than 30 years before the modern-day National Football League was formed by the merger of the AFL and the NFL. Perhaps the most interesting part of this fact is that the first Pro Bowl game was held in Los Angeles’s Wrigley Field. No, not Wrigley Field, Chicago, but Wrigley Field, Los Angeles. This game was actually called the Pro All-Star Game as the moniker Pro Bowl would come later.
The First Pro Bowl Included Players That Did Not Play for the NFL
The Pro All-Star game of 1939 included some players that did not actually play for the NFL. That would be pretty shocking today, but it should not be surprising when we consider that 80 years ago, people perhaps were less uptight about the distinction between amateur and professional and who played for this team or that. These fabulous players played for the Hollywood Bears and the Los Angeles Bulldogs, and they were hoping to catch the attention of the "big wigs" to get a place on an NFL team.
The Pro Bowl Was Not Played in 1943 and 1944
It should not come as a surprise that the Pro Bowl was not played in 1943 and 1944, two years that historians would probably consider to be the height of World War II, at least from the American perspective. These years were notable for various restrictions, including travel restrictions and food rations. Although the United States was generally spared most of the horrors of invasion, with the notable exception of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the war effort was a major concern throughout the 40s. The Pro Bowl did not actually resume until 1950.
The Pro Bowl Has Different Rules from the Regular Season and Post-Season
The Pro Bowl isn’t just another NFL game with a gaggle of players from different teams. There are actually some rule differences between regular season games and the Pro Bowl. In fact, there are quite a few rules that are unique to the Pro Bowl. There can be two players with the same number playing on the same team. There is no blitzing, and there are no kickoffs. Also, there are fewer players on the roster. There are probably a few reasons for the rule differences, but one of the major ones is to make the Pro Bowl safer than a league game. We wouldn’t want players to get hurt during a game that technically doesn’t count.
The Long Snapper Position Is Not Determined by Votes
In spite of what we said about Probowlers being selected by the votes of coaches, players and fans, there is one position in which the votes of players and fans are not regarded. That is the long snapper position. This position is determined solely by the coaches, and players picked for this role are not allowed to play for a team in which their coach is coaching.
So, there you have it: five facts you might not have known about the Pro Bowl---different rules, popular players and hopefully a good game. The Pro Bowl may have its fans and its naysayers, but the Probowlers themselves have little to complain about. They get to spend some time somewhere warm and get paid to show off. Of course, if you have a Super Bowl coming up, those perks may be an annoyance more than anything else. Whatever your opinion of the Pro Bowl, it is definitely a unique game as we explained in the five facts that you didn’t know about the Pro Bowl. It is coming up soon; will you be tuning in?
Featured Image via flickr.com