Monday, January 30, 2012

Concept of "All Star" Games Needs Review

As a child raised on baseball, there was nothing quite like watching the All Star game. I vividly remember Fred Lynn's grand slam at Comiskey Park helping the American League beat the National League in 1983, and being a Cubs fan at the time, was crushed because my league lost the game.

30 years later, I am wondering if we still need All Star games in any of the major sports.

Don't get me wrong, I think the players enjoy the recognition, but do we really need the games? In all honesty, I have played in Thanksgiving Day football games with my family that had more defense in them than Sunday's Pro Bowl, or NHL All Star game for that matter. The players on the field, or even the ice, are doing all they can to avoid injury, which is the right thing for them to do. Calling the product on the field "football", or even "hockey"? Well, that's just not right.

I'm not dogging the players at all. They earned their trips to these games, and represented themselves and their teams. What got me, however, was the booing I heard at the Pro Bowl. The ticket buying fan HAS to know that what they are about to witness in Hawaii, is nothing more than a padded practice, ruin at 3/4 speed at best. You HAVE to know that going in. If you are expecting to see full speed, play-with-your-heart-on-your-sleeve football, you need to save the airfare to Hawaii, and track down Super Bowl tickets. I want to be sympathetic to the fans, but I can't in this case. You have to know what you are getting into. Worst case, you are in Hawaii, so there is that.

Didn't realize this on Sunday, but this was the last Pro Bowl contracted for Hawaii. The league gave Hawaii a 2-year deal after their experiment to move the game to the host city of the Super Bowl, an experiment that failed miserably. The 2013 game location is up in the air (as of this morning), which brings me to this: End the Pro Bowl now.

The NFL can still hand out Pro Bowl roster bonuses to players who earned them, heck they can even send them all to Hawaii for a week long trip. If you ditch the game itself, you don't incur the wrath of unhappy fans who dropped big dollars to watch the NFL's best players, except for those that are playing in the Super Bowl the following week, and other players who skip the game due to injury. Or any other reason.

The players want to go to Hawaii, but they don't want to get hurt in the game. Hence, the Matador-like defense that gets played. I don't blame them one bit. Football is not a game that is played at half speed, and yet, that's what they were doing, they were going half speed. We all know why. Question is, why even bother then?

Of course, Hawaii stands to lose far more in this. It comes down to economy, and if the game moves, or doesn't get played at all, the revenue generated by the tourists for the game I am not rooting for that, but perhaps the time has come to make the game more interesting, while not endangering the players in a meaningless exhibition. Problem with that, though, is that there isn't a way to make it more interesting without endangering the players.

As for the NHL All Star game, it's about showcasing the offensive skills of the players, and there are many great ones on the ice. There were no boos coming from the stands in Ottawa, and the same was said about Raleigh the year before. Those fans knew they were in for 60 minutes of soft defense, perhaps some dazzling goaltending, but most of all, they were going to see pretty passes that led to easy goals. Worst job to have at the NHL All Star game? Goaltender.

As for the NBA and MLB All Star games, only baseball seems to have a game that is somewhat competitive, but there is no doubt the pitchers have the advantage, since rarely does a pitcher have to throw more than one inning. The NBA game has the same defensive problems as the NHL does.

Basically, we as fans simply have to accept that these showcase games aren't designed to be competitive, but simply as entertainment.

That being said, Cam Newton's performance is not a big deal. 186 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions means nothing, and has no bearing on the upcoming season. Because exhibition anything is meaningless.

Mike Solarte

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