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Thursday, August 21, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Fans' faithfulness to be tested if Pro Bowl players are no-shows

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



They announced the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl rosters yesterday, but any similarity between the vast majority of the names you read now and the ones you actually see sewn on the backs of the uniforms come Jan. 30 at Aloha Stadium might be coincidental.

Not to mention remarkable.

So don't chisel those 84 names in stone just yet.

It used to be that, except for quarterbacks, who had a curious propensity for offering up nagging, late-season injuries that actuarial tables had trouble accounting for, the vast majority of players picked for the annual all-star game usually made it here. Much to fans' delight.

In 2009, 87 percent of the originally selected players found their way to Halawa.

But while the Pro Bowl was away from our shores last year for the first time after 30 years, forcibly wintered in South Florida by NFL edict and experiment, the league gave the game a major overhaul. It slotted the event the week before the Super Bowl instead of its accustomed place a week afterward in an effort to bolster TV ratings and appeal.

The timing cost it the participation of 12 representatives from the two Super Bowl teams, New Orleans and Indianapolis, whose owners understandably weren't about to risk their stars' health in an all-star game a week before the championship.

Unless, of course, you count Peyton Manning's brief appearance on the sideline waving to the Sun Life Stadium crowd in a red Windbreaker as "action."

Coupled with injuries and players opting out of the game, 29 backup players took part in the event, meaning a third of the participants were replacements.

It also posed loud and clear the question of just how much of a true all-star game it really was, as even some players wondered out loud.

If the fans were disappointed, it was nothing compared to Colts' president Bill Polian, who said, "It's stupid. It's a disruption," having his Super Bowl-bound players there at all, a day before the rest of their teammates arrived for game preparation in the area.

For 2011 the Super Bowl will be in Arlington, Texas, so you wonder if the Super Bowl-bound players will make it here at all if owners have a say. Except via a digital JumboTron message, that is.

Six New England players, and five each from Green Bay and Baltimore were selected to the Pro Bowl yesterday, giving you some idea what kind of a hit could be taken depending upon which team reaches the Super Bowl.

Much of the Pro Bowl's success here since 1980 has been in the ability to serve three masters at once. The tourism industry, which antes up upwards of $4 million per game to the NFL through the Hawaii Tourism Authority, uses the event to advertise the state to snow-packed points on the mainland. The NFL gets the lure of paradise to assure the marquee players keep showing up. And fans—both those from here and those who come for the game—get to see their favorite players.

Those last constituencies, who have faithfully supported the game for decades, might have their steadfastness tested from here on out.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

 






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