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Sunday open thread; Are you a fan of the new Pro Bowl format?

Flag football. It finally happened

NFL: Pro Bowl Skills Competition Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s face it: you are probably going to watch the Pro Bowl.

Maybe not you, the personal you, but the rhetorical “you” will. In spite of all the bellyaching about the changes to the Pro Bowl, the cheapening of the title, and all those nasty things, the Pro Bowl still outperforms other sporting events in ratings and viewership. It’s the sort of thing that if you were a fan of the NBA you’d probably lose your mind.

This year has brought new changes, and not everyone is a fan. Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders made the astute observation: “This s&%# is stupid.” At the core of the Pro Bowl is the fact that the game is now a flag football competition, with no offensive or defensive lines; which coincidentally leaves two Detroit Lions Pro Bowlers—Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell—out of the proceedings.

Which leads us to today’s question:

Are you a fan of the idea of a flag football Pro Bowl?

My answer: I’m disengaged yet optimistic.

I held out hope for a long time on the Pro Bowl, but each year the tide of erosion makes it harder and harder to believe there was a time when it mattered—and even then, I fear the rose-colored glasses of the past obfuscate what was always just an elaborate excuse to take a trip to Hawaii and we don’t even have that no more. Just because there was a full game in the past of AFC against the NFC didn’t mean it was good, or competitive, or damn near anything that resembled a functioning All-Star game.

Flag football itself might be a joke to the neanderthal sports fan, but it’s a fascinating development in that this seems to be a side interest of the NFL the league is taking seriously. The NFL has partnered with the IFAF—an international body that promotes and governs American football in numerous countries—to promote flag football in recent years, and it’s clear there’s a hope they can sell this to be explored as an Olympic sport in some fashion. The league’s interest in flag football also extends to participation, and I’ve spoken with some people near the league that express that flag football is seen as a vehicle to reach a wider audience in participating in the sport, especially across gender lines.

But I don’t think professional athletes who play the tackle format of American football give a damn about a flag football game in the winter heat of Las Vegas. While the skills competitions have garnered interest and excitement, the game itself struggles and still feels hollow. Turning it into a flag football competition is fine on paper, but I suspect its participants still don’t care as much to play—and if they don’t care, it won’t be good, and the audience won’t care.

Nevertheless, I hold out hope it takes off because I’d like to have fun with the Pro Bowl again, if for no other reason than the sudden, abrupt onset of zero football is horrifying, enough to shock my system into seeking out XFL and USFL previews. I am becoming something horrifying.

Your turn. Flag football Pro Bowl: interesting development or affront in the eyes of God?

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