The Pro Bowl? Who watches that? It wouldn’t be too surprising to find out that many fans outside the hardest of hardcore football junkies even know the NFL has an all-star game, or when and where it is played.
But if that’s the case, the ratings for last Sunday’s Pro Bowl game, even though they were down significantly from last year’s game, prove that America is a nation of hardcore football junkies.
Ratings were down despite a new format and a game that turned out to be surprisingly competitive for a contest with no significance and in which the main objective for most players is generally just to avoid getting hurt. In 2013, the game was so bad that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made noises about just scrapping the annual all-star event altogether.
That 2013 game was won by the NFC, with a ridiculous score of 62-35. But for the 2014 game, the NFL ditched the traditional AFC vs. NFC Pro Bowl format. Instead, two retired NFL stars, Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, were named “captains” and each “drafted” his own team. That meant, for the first time, Pro Bowl players could be pitted against members of their own regular-season teams.
The Pro Bowl game turned out to be rather exciting and better approximated an actual NFL game, ending with a narrow, 22-21 “Team Rice” victory, decided by a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute, as ESPN reported.
The halfway decent — though still meaningless — game and novel “schoolyard” format for selecting the teams, however, still ended up with a TV rating down by about 500,000 viewers from the 2013 snoozer. But all is far from lost.
The Pro Bowl, with 11.7 million viewers — down from 2013’s 12.2 million — still outpaced not only regular season games in other sports, but even crucial playoff games and All-Star games.
According to a comparison drawn up by Sports Illustrated, Game 7 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals, which was the highest-rated basketball game of the season except for the NBA Finals themselves, drew 11.6 million viewers — 100,000 shy of the utterly insignificant Pro Bowl.
Baseball’s thrilling American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers averaged only 7.7 million viewers for each of its six games. For that matter, last year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game pulled in 11 million viewers, well shy of Sunday’s Pro Bowl.
So why would almost 12 million people spend a Sunday watching a meaningless game in which players rarely even try hard? The Pro Bowl ratings prove it. America is simply addicted to football, in any form.