Fan Experience

2017 NFL Pro Bowl

Credit: Sam Greenwood - Getty Images

My first experience of the NFL Pro Bowl was enjoyable. The week kicked off with the Fan Fest in which many activities were hosted. I gave my try at a few where I did the 40-yard dash and ran against Demaryius Thomas, well, a video of him. Can you guess who was faster? I got to catch a pass on one of my favorite defensive players, Dallas Cowboys’ Sean Lee in the “Run-A-Route” activity. Never mind the fact that he was made of cardboard. I even tapped way into my inner kid and got my face painted in my favorite team’s colors. The fan fest was something all ages could enjoy, and it appears they did.

The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge turned out to be a big hit. There was a drone drop competition in which a football was dropped from 125 feet in the air. Odell Beckham Jr won the challenge over Jarvis Landry. Possibly, the Giants may need to give the drone a call to throw to OBJ from now on. NFC won the skills challenges in a score of 3 – 2. Then, came the dodge ball competition. The NFC conquered the AFC in this, too. The players and fans seemed to love this the most.

Credit: AP Photo/Gregory Payan

Credit: AP Photo/Gregory Payan

The NFL made a great decision in bringing back the NFC vs AFC format. The NFC was favored to win the Pro Bowl, and had arguably the more entertaining squad. I already enjoy watching Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dez Bryant together. They played some great football this past season, but it is evident that they had fun. It translates to any fan – whether it be of the Cowboys or not – watching. Adding Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Drew Brees and Doug Baldwin to the mix only promises some entertainment. Many fans stated that the overall game was lack luster. A long-standing gripe about the Pro Bowl has been that the game is not competitive enough. Players don’t play as hard as they can to avoid injury, amongst other things. Many players eluded to it being one of the better games in most recent years.

Yet, the NFL still has struggles with the Pro Bowl. Players continually back out; Eighty players declined invitations over the past two years. Richard Sherman and others have stated that increased pay would be an incentive. Sherman suggested that “if you play a guy what he makes per game, he would probably play like it’s a game.” He went on to say “if you told them they’re making a game check, I guarantee you not many guys would be passing up Pro Bowls.” This year, the winners took home $61,000 and the losers, $30,000. $17,500 was awarded to ten players on the winning team of this year’s skill competition.

According to the Washington Post, TV ratings for the Pro Bowl dwindled:

TV ratings declined once again for this year’s NFL Pro Bowl as the ESPN-televised game drew a 4.2 final rating and 7.4 million viewers Sunday night. According to Sports Media Watch, it was the lowest-rated Pro Bowl since 2006 (3.7) and the least-watched Pro Bowl since 2007 (7 million viewers).

This year’s game was down 7 percent in both rating and viewers compared with last year’s and down 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively, from 2015. The 2011 version, the highest-rated Pro Bowl this century according to SMW, drew a 7.7 rating (45 percent higher than Sunday’s game) and 13.4 million viewers (44 percent higher).

Though the ratings in comparison to years’ past were down, the NFL still continues to show why it is one of the most watched programming in television.

This year’s game was — by far — Sunday’s most-watched cable-television program, outdrawing a showing of second-place “Alaska: The Last Frontier” by 4.2 million viewers and No. 3 “Real Housewives Atlanta” on Bravo by nearly 5 million viewers. The next-closest actual sporting event on cable was a 6 a.m. EST replay of the Australian Open final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, which drew 1.3 million viewers (the live telecast of the match at 3:30 a.m. EST drew 964,000 viewers).

Ezekiel Elliott tackled and raced a fan that ran onto the field, giving the fans probably one of the best highlights of the game. Fans and even some players alike are used to the game not being played so “seriously.” But I guess Lorenzo Alexander didn’t get that memo when he give Jimmy Graham a pretty hard hit. Ultimately, the AFC won by a touchdown, beating the NFC 20 – 13.

AFC outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (57) of the Buffalo Bills, and tight end Travis Kelce (87), of the Kansas City Chiefs, raise the MVP trophy following the NFL Pro Bowl football game Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The AFC defeated the NFL 20-13. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

What was the most surprising news to me coming out of the NFL Pro Bowl is the fact that Odell Beckham Jr. received praise from the VP of NFL, Troy Vincent. Vincent praised Beckham stating that he was a “stellar ambassador for our sport to fans, coaches, and fellow players.” He went on to say that OBJ “went above and beyond” in his engagement with the group. The league “found his cheerful attitude and dynamic smile as an example to all.” The reason it is surprising, is because of all the negative press that has been surrounding Beckham during the football season. From the brawl with the kicker’s net, to the infamous yacht ride, and the recent hole that was punched in the wall after the loss to Green Bay Packers; OBJ has been in some hot water. Maybe it was the lightheartedness of the Pro Bowl that OBJ needed to be able to relax and be his self. Beckham was seen dancing on the field with Blue, the Indianapolis Colts’ mascot, while the other Pro Bowlers huddled.

Credit: Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

In my opinion, I think the NFL made a great decision by hosting the Pro Bowl in Orlando. The game was sold out, where even standing room tickets were sold to the game. Orlando truly is, “The City Beautiful.” The Pro Bowl will be hosted in Orlando next year with the option for a third year. Judging based off the reception, I think the third year is favorable.

Being that many of the players have young families, Orlando as a host city just made sense. Home to Disney, Universal Studios, and many other attractions, it gave the players and fans visiting a full experience. It provided fun for all ages and brought everyone together. If there needed to be an example for what the NFL means when it says “Football is Family,” the Pro Bowl in Orlando would be it.

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