â†µMost NFL fans have this weird perception that because the Pro Bowl is just an exhibition game between stars, it's not real football and, therefore, not worth watching. I'll be honest, I actually agree with most NFL fans here. Football purists take issue with the fact that the All-Star game in football is different than other sports in that All-Star games in baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer don't really change the play on the field anywhere near as much. â†µâ†µ
â†µThey still pitch, hit and play defense in the baseball exhibition game. While they might not run as many set plays in the NBA, NHL or MLS All-Star games, the style of play isn't drastically different than a normal contest. But in football, the entire game is a point-to-point strategic battle of one cohesive unit trying to stop another cohesive unit. Take schemes – specifically blitzes – out of the equation and it completely changes the game in a way that other All-Star games don't. Oh, and then there's the whole guys not wanting to get hurt. What's the fun in seeing players take it easy on their opponent? â†µâ†µ
â†µSo ESPN has a real challenge on their hands this Sunday to get people to not just tune in, but to stick around throughout the game. What's their plan? Lots and lots of live microphones. In fact, ESPN's telecast will feature 14 live mics on players and coaches during the game. Plus they'll have a ton of interviews with players throughout the telecast. ESPN Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman gave some insight to their plan: â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥"It’s an opportunity for us to do a lot of things we’re not able to do during the regular season. The big thing for us is access in this game. We’ll be pretty aggressive at mic’s on players, including all the quarterbacks and other players as well … aggressive with interviews on the sidelines and bringing the stars to the fans. We will have cameras in locker rooms, pregame, halftime, postgame and huddles. We’re also excited about Super Bowl participants there including Drew Brees and Peyton Manning on the field with Chris Berman. â†µâ‡¥â†µWhile having the game the week before the Super Bowl has done an amazing job for the buzz surrounding the Pro Bowl, something the NFL is obviously happy about, having the game during this week – not in Hawaii and without the players from the Super Bowl teams – has totally cannibalized the caliber of player showing up for the game. That's something the NFL needs to fix before they do this again. But that's not ESPN's problem. They just need to worry about the players who did show up. In the end, it's professional football, so most of us complaining about the game will tune in anyway. Besides, what else is on – the Grammys? â†µ
â†µâ‡¥“We’ll have a ton of production elements, video packages and special graphics that we bring into the game because another thing is celebrating these athletes who made it into the Pro Bowl and celebrating their season. We have 25 cameras for this game, but it’s a little different plan for us. It’s more about maximizing all the audio we have versus the game coverage.” â†µâ‡¥â†µ
â†µActually, it's interesting that not only will the Pro Bowl theoretically fight for viewers with the typical Sunday evening episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy et al, but NBC has a 9:00 p.m. ET slotted SNL Presents: Sports All-Stars, which has the following description: â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥Hosts Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte portray their sports-commentator characters, Pete Twinkle and the vacuous Greg Stink, in a special featuring new skits and fan-favorite sports-themed sketches culled from the late-night show's archives. Included: Will Ferrel's impression of broadcaster Harray Caray; Ray Romano's skewering of "SportsCenter"; and bits featuring Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. â†µâ†µSo, NBC wants you to decide…do you want to watch Peyton Manning get interviewed by Chris Berman or Peyton Manning throwing a football at the head of a neighborhood kid? Do you want to watch Tom Brady as an office worker in his underpants or a game that Tom Brady was too busy to show up for? â†µ
â†µOr, you know, the Grammys are on too. â†µâ†µ
â†µPro Bowl – 7:20 p.m.
â†µESPN's coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. with their enormous pregame show, featuring Berman, Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Yes, ESPN has nearly two hours of pregame coverage with a full cast of studio analysts and reporters…on location…at the Pro Bowl, in an effort to clearly capture the Super Bowl buzz leading up to the "Big Game." â†µ
â†µMike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden will be in the booth for the game, with Suzy Kolber on the AFC sideline and Michele Tafoya on the NFC sideline. Again, Berman will have interviews throughout the game with different players from both the Saints and Colts, including, per the ESPN release, "an anticipated halftime interview with Super Bowl quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees." â†µâ†µ
â†µFor this weeks video, let's just hope the Pro Bowl is half as entertaining as this promo video from a few years ago. SNL's sports spectacular has nothing on Terrible Terry Tate. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.