In summers long past, several of us neighborhood kids would gather in the front yard for some Whiffle Ball, and of course the first thing to do was choose up sides by tossing the bat with each captain then topping the other’s fist until somebody covered the nub to take first pick.
That memory struck me when I learned about one of the ways the NFL has chosen yet again to play their annual Pro Bowl, attempting yet one more time to put some competitive spark into the thing, which serves no real football purpose at all but does seem to be a winner on television so they keep doing it.
The players don’t dislike the idea. There are some bucks involved ($53K to win and $26K to lose), plus a family trip to Hawaii. Nice. Those who compete at the highest level and get named as an MVP (one each for offense and defense) get to take a new GMC home with them. Also very nice.
The guys get to horse around in what amounts to the professional version of a backyard game where the competitive level is such that nobody has to do the “game face” thing and work themselves up all “Ray Lewis Style” as usually demanded for gladiatorial performances. Not bad.
This being football of course, they did not toss a bat but a coin, and Jerry Rice, one of the “Alumni Team Captains” got the first picks and took Drew Brees and Robert Quinn as active team captains on one side, while Deion Sanders took J.J. Watt and Jamaal Charles as his team captains.
Then a Pro Bowl Draft commenced Tuesday from the available pool of eligible players to fill out each of the 44-man rosters: 21 on offense, 18 on defense and 5 specialists per. Coach Ron Rivera of the Panthers will coach Rice’s team while the Colts’ Chuck Pagano will coach Sanders’ squad.
Deion’s team has one advantage right off the bat. By having Andrew Luck chosen as his quarterback, Pagano steps into a situation as familiar as it gets. When it comes to the complicated, confusing mess football can become - even when you’re just playing it for fun - nothing can be more important.
The league will attempt to lower the potential for injuries by abolishing the kickoff. Possession will be decided by coin toss. A two-minute warning will finish each quarter, apparently in an effort to encourage more hurry-up offense because possession changes at the end of each quarter.
After years of man-only defense, cover-2 and press coverage schemes will be allowed, and not just in goal-line situations. They are also going to speed up the play clock and not stop it as often (like on quarterback sacks) in order to force offenses to move even quicker.
Personally, I think it would be more entertaining to just go ahead and put skates on them, give them sticks, toss out a puck and call it even. If they only had the wisdom to have the game in New York instead of Honolulu, the field would be perfect for that about now.
Can’t wait for next week, huh? Where’s global warming when you really need it?