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Wednesday, April 16, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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Who doesn't like a circus, especially with NFL stars?

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:



It was headed this way for a long time, but it's now official.

The Pro Bowl is a joke.

If you weren't sure before, you are now after Alex Mack's touchdown for the final score yesterday in an exhibition of something sometimes resembling professional football. It featured three defensive players and a center (Mack) crossing the goal line for touchdowns. You'll probably never see anything like it again — at least until next year at Aloha Stadium when some of the world's greatest players pretend to play football again.

The play that got Mack his first TD since high school was exciting and entertaining, one of those hot-potato, rugby-type desperation toss-arounds. Jerry Glanville would've been proud.

But it wasn't great football, by a long shot. Is it something we really expect and want to see in a game that's supposed to feature the NFL's elite playmakers?

Personally, I'm OK with it, because I enjoy just about anything out of the ordinary, and I love to laugh. So, like I said, the Pro Bowl's a joke, but that doesn't mean there's no place for the Alex Macks of the world taking center stage for a few minutes.

I loved the huge smile on Mack's face as a bigger crowd of interviewers and autograph seekers than for most of the quarterbacks (Peyton Manning still rules, no matter what) gathered around him at midfield.

The man who starts every offensive play for the Cleveland Browns giving the football to someone else ended the game with one in his hands.

"I'm not letting go of this one," said Mack, who took a lateral from Montell Owens, after he'd gotten one from Dwayne Bowe, who'd caught a pass from Matt Cassel.

Mack rumbled the last 40 yards and flopped into the end zone. It fit right into the rest of the FOX Sunday cartoon programming.

"I have to thank the defender (Roman Harper). He could've cut me, but he tried to tackle me high," Mack said. "It was a gimme touchdown. If the game was on the line, I would've been tackled."

Maybe. The NFC did everything but roll out a red carpet for Mack. But even earlier, the only people blowing anything up in this game were the ones shooting off the fireworks.

And, really. No one wants to get hurt tackling a 311-pound center in the Pro Bowl.

THERE WERE six interceptions, five thrown by AFC quarterbacks. Well, Vegas did say it was a pick 'em game.

You know that old saying about guys playing defensive back instead of receiver because they have bad hands? Doesn't apply at the highest level. The play of the NFC secondary, that's one thing in this game that was no joke, and one thing just about everyone agreed upon is that DeAngelo Hall of the Redskins deserved the MVP honors for his interception and forced fumble and return for an NFC touchdown.

The amazing thing about it is that the rules are slanted so much in the offense's favor that the final scores should always be in the 50s — but not because the defensive players contribute so much.

"This is not what they want to happen," said Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, "they" being the NFL hierarchy that makes the game harder for the defense all the time.

Don't be surprised if next year, by league edict, the Pro Bowl features pro bowlers at cornerback. I mean actual professional bowlers, like Walter Ray Williams.

The best do-nothing job in football is no longer third-string quarterback; it is Pro Bowl defensive coordinator.

"All he has to do is throw us out on the field and let the players make plays," Grimes said. "There's not a whole lot of scheming to do."

Maybe the league should figure out a way to get the Super Bowl players back into the game. That might help the overall quality.

And maybe the linemen will go at each other with a bit more intensity if you make it all or nothing instead of $45,000 to the winning players and $22,500 to the losers.

At any rate, the way this exhibition went, it's hard to believe anyone back East still had it on to see Mack truck into the end zone with 16 seconds left, or at all after halftime. With that in mind, can the Hawaii Tourism Authority get at least a partial refund on the $4 million for its 3-hour commercial?

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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