It works for the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. Why not the NFL? Why can’t professional football spruce up its all-star festivities by adopting a mid-season all-star weekend?
At this point, dramatic change couldn’t hurt. Nobody in the industry actually likes the Pro Bowl, and television ratings for the dull annual event have dropped significantly. There were more drop-outs this year than ever before, so it appears the game is reaching a breaking point.
Instead, the NFL would be better off implementing a mid-season, near-league-wide bye week and treating it as a mini Super Bowl weekend. Not only would that eliminate any advantages or disadvantages stemming from early or late byes, but it would give the league a chance to dominate the sports spectrum for an entire weekend right around the World Series and November sweeps.
Take this example for the 2019 NFL season:
- Every team plays eight games in the first eight weeks, with four teams getting a slightly early bye in Week 9.
- Week 10 becomes all-star week, with the entire league converging on the brand-new City of Champions Stadium in Los Angeles for a special weekend.
- The weekend kicks off on Thursday, Nov. 7 with a game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders at City of Champions Stadium.
- On Friday, Nov. 8, all-star parties take over LA. The commissioner and several owners hold a state-of-the-NFL town hall, which pulls in gangbusters ratings throughout the country. And a select local high school game airs live nationwide, with NFL players and coaches participating in the game and the broadcast.
- On Saturday, Nov. 9, after UCLA plays USC across town, a prime-time skills competition is held on the field at City of Champions Stadium. Players race to earn the title of NFL’s fastest man, quarterbacks take part in an accuracy contest, receivers try to make trick-shot receptions in a slam-dunk-type contest. I’m sure the league could think up quite a few more. Dan Levy has.
- Again, Saturday night features a slew of hot parties with big-name sponsors. All-star weekend is substantially more marketable than the Pro Bowl, and all of the players want to be there.
- On Sunday, Nov. 10, the Los Angeles Rams host the Seattle Seahawks in a prime-time tilt at City of Champions Stadium.
What’s great about this is you could still hold the Pro Bowl after the season. Hell, if you’re making money off of both and people are watching, why not? The only downside here is the NFL would be sacrificing a Sunday afternoon and a Monday night. But they’d make up for a lot of that with the festivities on Friday and Saturday. And it’s also possible they could hold a few more teams back in Week 9 for a pair of exclusive Sunday matinees or even turn Thursday night’s slate into a doubleheader.
Someone run it by Roger Goodell.