On Sunday night, 24 of the best basketball players on Earth will gather in Orlando for the NBA All-Star Game. Like the NHL and NFL All-Star Games, the contest is often dismissed as a glorified pickup game where neither side plays defense. NPR’s Sports Correspondent Mike Pesca sat down with Bill to discuss the appeal, or lack thereof, of various All-Star Games.
The two games that seem to draw the most ire from fans are the NFL’s Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star Game. Pesca said that he didn’t manage to catch any of the action from either of those two games.
“The reason that I didn’t watch either of those All-Star Games is quite simple, it’s that I like sports,” he said. “Especially with football, and also with hockey, contact sports that rely on their brutality, there’s no way to have a real All-Star Game, because when you take the contact away, you’re taking the sport away.”
Another reason that the games seem to have lost their luster, especially in the NFL, is that players don’t seem to have much desire to play in them.
“For the most part, players enjoy being called an All-Star and named to an All-Star team,” Pesca said. “But they really want to get out of the game. They come up with an ache or a sprain or some reason not to show up. So many players say that they don’t want to play that they have to go through the list and ask other players. In 2011, 18 linebackers were named or appeared in the Pro Bowl.”
If we take the 32 NFL teams and assume 3.5 starting linebackers per team, the 18 linebackers in the Pro Bowl constitute over 15% of the starting linebackers in the league.
After NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers was critical of the effort level of his fellow NFC teammates during the 2012 Pro Bowl, commissioner Roger Goodell backed him up on ESPN radio saying, “I really didn’t think that was the kind of football that we want to be demonstrating for our fans. We’re either going to have to improve the quality of what we’re doing in the Pro Bowl, or consider other changes, or even consider eliminating the game.”
“I give credit to Goodell for saying that,” Pesca said. “You would think that that CEO of a multi-million or billion corporation would dig in his heels or try to say anything to defend the process.”