The NFL’s annual all-star game, the Pro Bowl, has gone through some recent experiments and changes over the past couple of years. It has changed location from Hawaii to Miami and back again, and was moved from the Sunday after the Super Bowl to the Sunday in between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
This year the NFL is introducing another element to the game, and depending on who you are, you will either think it’s amazing and innovative from a public relations standpoint, or, if you’re like me, the most ridiculous idea ever.
The NFL is allowing players to tweet live on the sidelines of the Pro Bowl. Yes, players will be allowed to use Twitter.
Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco claimed to have been using it during regular-season games, and in the only game the NFL will allow players to use it, he won’t be there.
The NFL’s Pro Bowl isn’t the most popular of all-star games in the world of professional sports. The other three major American sports have figured it out somewhat: The NHL has a skills challenge that featured Zdeno Chara blasting a puck at 108.8 miles per hour; the NBA has Blake Griffin jumping over a car while a choir sings “I Believe I Can Fly;” and the MLB has the Home Run Derby, the latest version featuring the always-heated Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
The NFL has Twitter.
I went to the MLB All-Star game last summer, and even in 110-degree heat, the city of Phoenix and Major League Baseball made sure everybody had fun, whether you were there or at home watching the events on TV. The trick is to make a show out of it. You get to see your favorite players and celebrities chilling out and having a good time or watch old legends come back to play their sport in a softball game. You can settle that bet you had with your friend over whether Ray Allen would repeat as the 3-point-shot competition champion. It’s all about getting people to see something that doesn’t happen on a regular basis.
Sure, there’s the actual All-Star Game itself, but you can watch a game whenever you want. The events leading up to the all-star games, if they are entertaining enough, will get people to watch the actual game. You have to have a build-up, and the NFL doesn’t have it.
Why can’t they have a skills contest with the shiftiest of running backs and wide receivers? Or a speed contest with the fastest backs and kickoff returners? What about a contest to see who has the strongest arm or the farthest kick? Why not showcase a flag football game with some retired legends?
Nope. NFL fans get Twitter. The NFL dumped the skills challenge they had in 2007. In 2012 they replaced it with Twitter.
Another problem is while they air the college senior bowl as well as Pro Bowl practice, it is on the NFL Network, a channel that Time Warner, Cablevision, Cox and other major cable companies don’t carry — or in the case of Comcast, you’ll need to buy an upgraded package to watch it. So the potential is there, but it needs to be more accessible to the average football fan.
I don’t hate Twitter, I think it’s great social tool. But to use it as a gimmick to get people to watch a game? That is a little bit too cheesy for my taste.
The NFL needs to be innovative and come up with events that fans and players would be interested in watching and participating in leading up to what should be advertised as the main event, a blueprint that other sports have had success with, not computer stations set up on the 20-yard-line.