Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
The NBA All Star Game isn’t anything spectacular. It’s the finishing touch, the grand finale, but it’s not the be all and end all of the NBA’s All Star Weekend. And that’s exactly the way it should be. What the NBA does right is find ways to inject competition and entertainment over the course of two days to create something that’s actually worth watching.
The NFL’s Pro Bowl has the intensity of a Sunday afternoon catch in the front yard. It’s a great idea in theory: the fan’s favorite players suit up together to duke it out on the field. But with the players worried about getting hurt, no one is going to give 100 percent in a completely meaningless game. So what could the NFL learn from their counterparts in the NBA?
Find competition in different ways. The skill contests that go on during All Star Weekend are easy to set up and do a lot to encourage athletes to compete without putting them in any real risk of serious injury. The skill contests work so well and draw in fans because they showcase the most exciting parts of the game and offer all-important bragging rights to the winner. Some challenges showcase player speed, while the shooting challenge tests which players can heat up and hit the most shots.
If the NFL wants to capture some of this magic, bring in some skill games. Let DeMarco Murray race Jamaal Charles through an obstacle course. Let Jordy Nelson and Antonio Brown find out who can complete the most one-handed catches. Let the viewer really appreciate the almost super-human ability some of these guys have.
And make it fun for the fans that are watching. Organize a flag football game where everyone plays out of position. How would Ndamukong Suh do as a slot receiver? Who cares? Let the weekend be about having fun and have the actual Pro Bowl game be used for recognizing the outstanding players of the season.
Do something special for the rookies too. The NBA does their Rising Stars game for the league’s best young players. More dedicated fans will want to watch who’s rising through the ranks to be the next breakout star. It also does the job of acting as part of the build up for the eventual Pro Bowl game.
Finally, move the whole thing to someplace where people will actually go. Doing it in the same location as the Super Bowl was a nice thought, but people aren’t going to flock to Glendale, Arizona the same way they will to places like New York City, Miami or Los Angeles.
The NBA isn’t alone in their weekend long format, the NHL has been doing something similar, skill contests and all. Other sports should join in, and make the All Star event something that’s fun for the fans and the players, not just an end of the year formality.