DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning is making his eighth Pro Bowl appearance this year.
Playing in Hawaii has kept Pro Bowl alive
IF you think you've heard this song and dance before by the National Football League, you have.
Seems like every time the contract is about to run dry, officials start talking about taking it somewhere else; as if any other major city would be willing to plunk down the $4 million needed to buy an all-star game that relies on the rookies to play while the veterans either sit back and relax or don't bother coming at all.
For some reason, the current thought is that more players would take part in the game if it were held someplace else like Orlando or China or the week before the Super Bowl as a warm-up for the big event itself.
You have to sit back in wide-eyed wonder at how the NFL power brokers dream up such lame-brained ideas when the best thing about the Pro Bowl is it's played here.
There's plenty of support from local people and military personnel, who welcome the thousands of visitors fleeing the frigid mainland to fill Aloha Stadium on a Sunday afternoon. Nobody takes it too seriously, the young guns get most of the snaps and the broadcasters do sideline interviews with the veterans in recognition of their accomplishments.
You can take this game to another destination, but based on the straw poll the Star-Bulletin did this week, the players and their families aren't all that interested in packing up the carnival and going to another town or time zone. They like it right here, thank you very much; Mr. Commissioner, move on to something else.
But as you know by now, this commissioner is one of those idea guys who believes you can always make something better. It's not hard to imagine him wandering around a room telling those forced to listen that having this game on a rotating basis is best for all concerned.
It will be new and fresh each time it comes to that selected city, giving it the kind of vibrancy this all-star game deserves. We need to do something to reinvent it. Perhaps playing it the week before the Super Bowl in the same city is the way to go. Granted, you don't have the Pro Bowl players from the two best teams in the league, but hey, why should that matter?
EARLIER THIS WEEK, Goodell gave an impromptu press conference and made reference to the 17 players who did not come, as if the destination had something to do with it. More likely, it's an uneven NFL policy that, on the one hand, won't allow you to come here unless you play, then on the other, lets the players withdraw without so much as a second glance.
Having the all-star game at the end of a long and grueling season makes it difficult on the participants. In a perfect world, the game would be played at the halfway point of the season like all the other all-star games.
Of course, that's not going to happen.
The owners won't want to risk their best players getting hurt in an exhibition game, even though all the other major sports do, including hockey. You can't play it at the beginning of the season for the same reasons, leaving you with what you have now.
Maybe it would be good to allow all those players originally selected to come to Hawaii and be recognized and rewarded for a job well done. If you can play, you should, even if it's only for a series or two.
If you can't -- say if you're LaDainian Tomlinson -- you shouldn't be punished and told to stay home because of a legitimate ailment.
Having those veterans around on the sidelines during practice and the game would be fun for the first-time Pro Bowlers and good TV for the viewers. Most of the reward for being selected should be away from the field, anyway. The players should have time to celebrate in private and among themselves and their families, and this is where the 50th state steps in to make sure that happens.
Giving the game back to ESPN would be a good thing, too. The major networks can't provide the final football fix as well as ESPN can on a 24-hour basis. Those guys knew how to market it to mainland viewers. They were here all week doing daily interviews with the game's best, keeping the NFL in the public consciousness for one more week. That's not happening as much these days, and it may be why viewership continues to dip.
Playing it in Hawaii every year has done more to keep it alive than anything else. Changing that part of the equation would be a mistake that could lead to an even emptier dance card, putting the Pro Bowl in real peril.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org