All quiet—too quiet—on the Pro Bowl front


POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2009

Normally by the week of the Super Bowl, the NFL is all over us. Even though the league is busy putting on its little shindig a few thousand miles away, there's always an advance party out here pumping up the Pro Bowl.

Usually it includes a soft news conference featuring a losing coach from the conference championship games; I've come to call this “;Poolside with Andy Reid.”; There's also always a very pretty cheerleader and a charismatic player involved, too.

This gathering at the Hilton Hawaiian Village was the domain of every freebie monger in town before they stopped distributing spiffy Pro Bowl aloha shirts several years back.

Along those cost-cutting lines, my guess was that we hadn't heard from the NFL yet because the league is practicing up for when it won't be here at all next year and had canceled one of our favorite annual sports informational sessions.

More importantly, we started getting a little nervous about credentials. In addition to scooping up major stories like whether Tiki and Ronde Barber ever played tricks on teachers and girlfriends, this is where we begin the arduous process of press pass procurement.

I'm apprehensive about bothering our NFL contacts the week leading up to the Super Bowl, but dang it, we need our passes. Securing these keys to the crowded kingdom is often the most challenging part of covering the Pro Bowl—right up there with the distasteful annual rite of being blown off by Terrell Owens, a fellow I never really wanted to talk to anyway.

If you don't start the vetting process for credentials at least 10 days prior, you might end up like Caroline Kennedy, seatless and red-faced.

So I called the helpful NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, and got more than I bargained for—in addition to info about a Sunday press deal and the credentials, a quick phone interview with Frank Supovitz, big cheese of NFL special events.

Supovitz said he's worried about selling out the Pro Bowl in time to release the TV blackout. Around 5,000 more tickets need to be distributed by a week from today so that others can watch it on their flat screens. He said the deadline won't be met at the current sales pace.

“;I understand the economy and the soft travel market. Maybe fans don't know tickets are still available,”; Supovitz said. “;They can come out and enjoy an NFL experience for as little as $45.”;

I'm thinking there might be plenty of local walk-up to make it a sellout, since the game will be in Miami next year instead of here. Supovitz also indicated that a sellout would help the state in its ongoing negotiations for a new contract to keep Hawaii in the mix of a Pro Bowl rotation.

“;Everybody would like to be sure that the support is there,”; he said.

The NFL's recent proposal to the Hawaii Tourism Authority was rejected, but talks continue, and Supovitz said he hopes to get the deal done next week. He said a return to Aloha Stadium in 2011 is still a strong possibility, despite assertions to the contrary by the mayor of Arlington, Texas.

“;We're trying to reach a deal that will take effect in 2011,”; Supovitz said.

That was good to hear.

With the roar of silence before yesterday, I was beginning to wonder if the NFL had wrapped things up here a year early, perhaps never to return.