The NFL’s Pro Bowl is pretty much an unwatchable, uninteresting circus. But because it’s an NFL event it draws viewers. In fact, despite a huge drop in numbers this year, it still drew more viewers than the NBA’s All-Star Game.
That’s why the game isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. There are really only two ways the Pro Bowl will ever go away, if the owners simply lose interest or the players refuse to go. Tyler Eifert, it appears, is ready to start that revolution.
The Cincinnati Bengals tight end is still out of action due to an ankle injury suffered in the game. Initially the injury seemed minor, but he ended up having surgery on the ankle and has not participated in any offseason workouts.
He currently resides on the physically unable to perform list, won’t have his protective boot removed for another week and might not even be ready for the Bengals season opener on Sept. 11. Eifert told reporters that he will never play in the Pro Bowl again, even if he’s invited.
“It’s just not worth it,” he said. And he’s right.
Eifert has shown the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He caught 52 passes for 615 yards last season and added 13 touchdowns, the most of any player at his position. And he put up those numbers despite missing a few games due to a concussion. He is a huge loss for the Bengals, who start the season with a tough stretch at the Jets and Steelers and at home against the Broncos.
Frankly, Eifert doesn’t want to miss any action due to injuries from an exhibition game either, and who can blame him?
But the fact of the matter is that the game isn’t going anywhere. The Pro Bowl game itself might be garbage and everybody might know it, but nobody really cares. It’s something that resembles football, and it’s on TV, so a whole lot of people watch it. And as long as people watch it, TV networks will line up to show it, and there will be no shortage of businesses willing to throw sponsorship money at it.
Aside from fans simply refusing to watch, the one thing that could stop the Pro Bowl is players refusing to go. Perhaps those things would go hand in hand. If Eifert starts a movement that other players begin to follow – a sudden rash of convenient “injuries” at the last moment? – maybe that would affect viewership numbers which.
But we’re a long way from any of that happening and Eifert by himself is not going to move the needle – especially since the NFL is working so hard to save the game by moving it to Orlando. We would need a Eifert to start a movement that spreads to other players. We would need it to be big enough for the game’s organizers to notice and for TV networks to go to the NFL and complain. We would need to see a further erosion of viewership numbers.
In the meantime, let’s hope there aren’t anymore serious injuries in the game.