A little more than 50 years ago, Bobbie Gentry informed all of us that June 3rd was the day Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge. [Aside: Check out this link; it makes me wonder why that was even a minor problem for Billy Joe.] But anyhow … there are a couple of recent sports news items that are music to my ears here in 2022…
The first harmonious news item is that the NFL is seriously reviewing the continuation of the Pro Bowl. Hallelujah! Will wonders never cease…? Here is the reality of the Pro Bowl:
- Top shelf players invent ways to avoid participation in these games; second tier players seemingly have to resort to an alien abduction to generate sufficient cover for them to miss the game.
- Then, after the REAL All Pro players have opted out, a bunch of NFL goombahs take the field and play the game at half-speed – – I am being generous here – – with the prime directive to be that no one gets hurt in the game.
The NFL has tried some heroic measures to save the game; it used to be the week after the Super Bowl – – but even hardcore fans did not care enough to become invested then. The NFL moved the game to the dead weekend between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl – – but that focused even less attention of the Pro Bowl spectacle.
The league has tried moving the game around from Hawaii to Arizona to Orlando. The league has tried to include a skills competition. None of that concocted stuff has amounted to a pinch of horsesh*it; because TV ratings have continued to decline to the point where the NFL pundits recognize that they have a “loser” on their hand. In case you had not realized it, “loser” is not an image that is palatable to the NFL.
There are so many things that ware wrong with the Pro Bowl that the single best decision that the league could make is to put a silver bullet through its head while simultaneously driving a wooden stake through its heart. Fans have stopped watching a glorified two-hand-touch game to the point where the NFL prefers never to have to acknowledge such low ratings.
There is a window of opportunity for the NFL here:
- The 2021 Pro Bowl game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no huge hue-and-cry among NFL fans; people with hugely differing views on the pandemic seemed to be more than just OK with killing the Pro Bowl Game that year.
- There is a potential sore point here with the NFLPA; lots of players have incentives in their contracts that pay real money if the player is selected to the Pro Bowl. The union is not likely to give those clauses up because of dwindling fan interest and lower TV ratings.
- What the NFL needs to to do is to establish a “voting/selection” procedure so that “Pro Bowl Players” can be recognized and rewarded via their contracts. But if there no game for those selectees to play in, then everyone wins including the fans.
Some have said that if the NFL were to cancel the Pro Bowl entirely, they would need to come up with another TV presence that would take its place. I do not necessarily subscribe to that point of view – – but if that becomes a stumbling block on the road to getting rid of a disastrously stupid TV event, let me offer one suggestion:
- Why not pit AFC “All Pros” against NFC “All Pros” in a competition involving the 10 track and field decathlon events. Make the prize money a winner take all situation.
- Enforce the contract clauses for players not to be paid for being selected; make payment of the incentive clauses contingent on participating in the “Pro Bowl event”.
OK, so maybe I was a bit too aspirational there. So let me come back to Planet Earth a bit here and mention one other sports story of the moment that is music to my ears. Canadian Football League negotiators along with CFLPA representatives hammered out a new CBA – – and this one was indeed ratified by both the league owners and the players at large. The CFL season will begin on schedule on 9 June – – which is next week.
It seems that a major sticking point in the previous agreement that was voted down by the players en masse had to do with the CFL’s rule about “player ratio”. When I read reports on how the old CBA proposal was voted down and how the new one was approved, I must confess that I do not have the historical CFL perspective to recognize how and why this was a deal-breaker. My understanding is that the new agreement assures that every team in every game will have 7 Canadian players who are starters but starting next year one of those players could be a nationalized Canadian who may have been born in the US. Moreover, CFL teams that play the “most Canadians” at the end of the season will be given extra second round draft picks for the subsequent season.
Obviously, these issues are significant to the parties at the negotiating table even if they seem rather blasé to me. I defer, however, to folks who know the history of Canadian football much better than I do. I will only say that my preference would be for the CFL owners and for the CFLPA to work together to assure that CFL Football remains a distinct product as compared to the NFL or United States major college football.
Canadian football is a game of its own and in that uniqueness lies its attraction. Before anyone asks me if I would choose to watch/follow the CFL instead of the NFL or the major college football conferences, let me say that is a false choice. I can spend lots of time and memory units on US football at its top levels AND I can also appreciate and enjoy CFL football games on TV. The choice here should not be “either/or” because I believe it should be “both/and”.
Finally, today’s theme has been music – be it popular records or music to my ears – and so I shall close here with these two observations about music by George Bernard Shaw:
“The chief objection to playing wind instruments is that it prolongs the life of the player.”
“Let a short Act of Parliament be passed, placing all street musicians outside the protections of the law so that any citizen may assail them with stones, sticks, knives, pistols, or bombs without incurring any penalties.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………