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Friday, July 25, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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Pro Bowl is wonderful, but is it money well-spent?

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:



"Having the Pro Bowl out in Hawaii is such a treat.Personally I would love it if the NFL kept the pro bowl here!"
— Larry Fitzgerald

" Fine, it's a ... joke anyway. After all, I am paying you with your money."
— Teddy KGB, in "Rounders"

The first quote is a tweet from the Arizona Cardinals receiver and 2009 Pro Bowl most outstanding player who continually proves what a fine person he is (I left the minor miscues in to prove he's human). This year Fitzgerald displayed his class and generosity again by quietly paying the way for two cancer survivors to join us in our fair state for this week's festivities.

During Pro Bowl week, regular guys become classy guys and classy guys become Mother Teresa.

Hawaii seems to bring out the best in the players. Sure, now and then we hear stories of surly Pro Bowl players mistreating bartenders or hotel reception desk people. But for every one of those, there are at least 10 hospital visits, clinic appearances and other good deeds — many thankfully unaccompanied by news releases. This is one of those cases where we put more stock in info we get by word of mouth. The less choreographed, publicized and financially compensated, the better.

That's one of the biggest positives about having this game here. When young people in our community see big-time celebrities like NFL all-stars sharing their time and helping those less fortunate, it has a good chance of being paid forward, perhaps for a lifetime.

As Fitzgerald and every other NFL player we've ever asked says, they love having the Pro Bowl here. And happy players do some very nice things for the people of Hawaii, as well as others.

THE SECOND QUOTE is one of my favorites from one of my favorite movies. It is when John Malkovich's character goads Matt Damon's into challenging him for a big score instead of walking away from the poker table happy with a small win. It doesn't translate perfectly to the relationship between the NFL and the state of Hawaii, but it's close enough for a point I want to make. (OK, I mostly just wanted an excuse to get Teddy KGB's Russian accent into people's heads today.)

The league being here for a week brings in money. But how much?

As alluded to earlier, news releases about generosity make me suspicious. I got one this week trumpeting "NFL Provides $100,000 in Pro Bowl Grants to Hawaiian Non-Profit Organizations." This is specious when you consider the state pays the NFL $4 million a year for the right to stage the Pro Bowl. I'll probably get an e-mail from someone saying the NFL Charities Pro Bowl Grant Program is totally separate from league operations, or whatever accounting line that $4 million occupies ... and more from folks who benefit from these programs. The question remains, though, if the $4 million outlay derived from tourism taxes could be more efficiently used if the NFL is cut out as a middle man.

NEXT YEAR'S Pro Bowl is also set for here. Depending on how you look at it, another $4 million leaves the state to pump up its sports ego, or another $4 million is wisely invested in tourism and marketing that pays us back many times over.

After next year in Indianapolis, future Super Bowl hosts include New Orleans and Phoenix, both of which an NFL source says would be attractive for Pro Bowl pairings, like last year's in Miami.

We have a new governor more than willing to spar with the tourism industry, and divert millions from projected Aloha Stadium improvements the NFL would have liked. That will give commissioner Roger Goodell something to think about when the next round of Pro Bowl negotiations hit the front burner.

For now, though, Goodell has a much bigger mahi to fry, namely the collective bargaining agreement. That's a good thing for us, as it gives the state more time to determine if this $4 million annual investment remains a wise one, as well as to deal with the stadium conundrum.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.

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