When professional sports leagues first created the idea of All Star games, they did it with the intention of rewarding those athletes who had performed best at their positions that year and providing fans of those leagues with an entertaining competition between the best players.
Slowly over time the idea of rewarding athletes began to take a back seat to the entertainment value given to fans. League owners wanted to place a greater premium on giving fans a say as to which players would make the All Star game so that those fans would actually tune in to the meaningless, pointless exhibition and the owners and players could make a few extra bucks marketing it.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig went so far as to reward home-field advantage in the World Series to the league whose team won the All Star game for the sole purpose of reinvigorating interest in the useless game. And the NFL recently toyed with placing the Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl with the hope of drawing more interest from fans.
Let’s face it, it’s a dumb game and despite the shelf life of the All Star games for the various leagues, the idea has never reached fruition. The players, at least those who have been selected to multiple All Star games, don’t care too much about it and many back out of the games because they either don’t feel like playing or they want to give other players the chance to enjoy the experience.
There’s one common theme among all All Star games, which is that it’s all about the fan experience. That’s why the leagues encourage fans to take part in voting. Sure, those players on the winning All Star team will earn a bigger paycheck, but that’s just to encourage them to put forth the effort to entertain the fans. Ultimately, the leagues want the fans to feel connected to the game, which is where that leads us regarding the Tim Tebow matter.
Tebow, the Broncos quarterback who is perhaps the most polarizing player in the NFL today, finished third in fan voting for AFC quarterbacks. Known more for his ability to run the option and lead fourth-quarter comeback victories, he is not nearly the third-best quarterback in the AFC but he made the Pro Bowl as an alternate after the players and coaches voted.
His selection, of course, led to an uproar among Tebow’s harshest critics — as is usually the case with anything related to Tebow — wondering how such an injustice could happen.
The answer is simple: the Pro Bowl is not about selecting the best players in the league, nor is it about nominating those players who are having the best seasons — although, that’s a closer criteria to how the voting actually unfolds.
No, the Pro Bowl has morphed into a game featuring those players with the most star power. It’s a popularity contest, not all too dissimilar from a high school student council election. There are players who are voted to Pro Bowls based purely on reputation and past success rather than how they currently rank among their peers.
To all those who are up in arms about Tebow making the Pro Bowl even as an alternate, I can feel your pain. The game has strayed from its intended purpose when it was first created. But you have to come to grips with the fact that this is a game for the fans and they have spoken and made their voices heard.
If you’re upset with professional sports leagues for allowing fans to vote for the All Star game, or for placing such a big emphasis on it, then so be it. But if you’re upset that a bad quarterback has been selected to the Pro Bowl, you’re wasting your time and energy. The NFL’s intended process has run its course.