The National Football League’s annual showcase of its top stars will be unrecognizable for the 2023 season. The NFL announced on September 26th that the Pro Bowl will be replaced with the “Pro Bowl Games”. The NFL will no longer feature the traditional full-contact game at the end of Pro Bowl week. Instead, the Pro Bowl will host athletes to participate in a weeklong skills competition and flag football game.

The transformation of the Pro Bowl is intended to create a new and exciting idea of what has become stale. The 2022 Pro Bowl drew the smallest television audience since 2006 with just 6.69 million viewers. The goal of the Pro Bowl originally was to have the best players from around the league play in a high intensity game. However, playing full contact in a sport like football comes with the risk of injury. Every year several of the top athletes will decline because there is no incentive to play other than bragging rights. For the athletes that do accept the invitations, they have played at half speed rather than giving it their all. This led to the Pro Bowl losing its competitive nature and being an event for players to joke around. Many fans reminisce on the early 2000s when the Pro Bowl was high scoring competitive games. We were also gifted with countless highlight plays like Sean Taylors “Hit that was heard around the world” or Ty Law and Ray Lewis joint pick six.

The NFL hopes that the Pro Bowl Games will maintain the competition during Pro Bowl week but at a much lower risk. They are also eager for a new format that can be highly entertaining for the spectators. It was discovered that fans enjoyed the skills challenges, such as Quarterbacks playing in the Strongest Arm or Precision challenges. The skills challenges are fun for the athletes participating and creates entertaining content that could be shared over social media pages. The flag football game was introduced to keep a form of the previous Pro Bowl game. The NFL hopes that the flag game reintroduces the competitive nature while bringing a new and fun take. The NFL also announced that Hall of Fame Quarterback and 14x Pro Bowler Peyton Manning will have a significant role in the Pro Bowl Games. Manning will be responsible for the programing of the event while also serving as a coach for the flag football game.

There have been mixed feelings when it comes to the Pro Bowl Games, but most fans went to social media to express that there needed to be a change. “This is the right move. The Pro Bowl had become a farce over the past five years, and if done right, this new format has the potential to allow the NFL to market its players and their personalities even more during that week.” Bleacher Report hosted a poll on its media platform with its users on whether they liked the new Pro Bowl. Around 46% of the voters agreed that there needed to be a change, while only 8% felt there was no need to remove the game. The only question is, are players still willing to participate in this new Pro Bowl? The Pro Bowl games is still voluntary for any stars that are sent an invitation. Players have yet to reveal their opinion, so it’s difficult to know if they are excited about the changes. Fan voting will still determine who is sent to the Pro Bowl, just for a flag football game rather than tackle football.

I agree that the Pro Bowl needed a change, but I do not believe that an all-star flag football game will be as enticing as an official tackle game. I love the idea of the Pro Bowl game; I just feel that it was executed poorly. I believe that the NFL did not need to remove the game but should’ve given players incentives to play. The MLB rewards the winner of the Home Run Derby $1 million dollars during All Star Weekend. If there was a reward, these stars would play full speed instead of the two-hand touch that they have done in the past. If the athletes were able to play full speed again, I believe that many fans would prefer the tackle football game instead.