Jan 28, 2012; Honolulu, HI, USA; NFC quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers (1) hands off to NFC running back Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks (24) during the NFC practice on Ohana Day at the 2012 Pro Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Six Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Pro Bowl this year. The big question that everyone is asking is, “Does anybody care?” Last year’s players were accused of not competing, not playing hard enough, and basically playing a boring game. It resulted in a 59 to 41 AFC victory. Earlier this season, when asked about his Prow Bowl snub, Seattle’s own Richard Sherman seemed indifferent. He stated only that he wanted to be listed on the all-pro team.
In fact, criticism of the NFL’s all star game has grown so strong that there has been speculation that Roger Goodell may cancel future Pro Bowls if this year’s game is a flop. If he did, it would be a shame for the NFL’s youngest fans, the kids, who really believe that watching their heroes in an all star game is an exciting event.
My strongest memory of the Prow Bowl was in 1995. That year, Seahawks’ running back Chris Warren broke the Prow Bowl record for yards in a game at 127. Soon after that, his own AFC teammate, Marshall Faulk (then of the Indianapolis Colts) broke Warrens record by gaining 180 yards. Yes, the same record went down twice in one game by players from the same team.
I was young that year, and knew more about NCAA football than I did about NFL football. Maybe that was why I was so excited to see a Seattle player take a record in a bowl game. Then, when Marshall Faulk topped Warren’s record, I felt like I would feel years later when Shaun Alexander lost his share of the single season TD title to LaDainian Tomlinson the next season.
Jan 24, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger (60) at NFC practice for the 2013 Pro Bowl at Hickam air force base. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
On Sunday, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, and Leon Washington all have chances to put their names in the record books. All though, for Russell Wilson to get in the record books, he would have to put up impressive individual numbers. Peyton Manning owns most quarterback career marks. Perhaps playing behind his linemen Max Unger and Russell Okung will work to Wilson’s advantage.
It is true that some fans may be turned away from the Pro Bowl by the lack of hard hits, the no-blitz-allowed rule, mandatory 4-3 defense, Maddenesque scoring, and overall lack of competitiveness. There is still potential for some good performances by the best players that the NFL had to offer this season; at least the players not playing in the Super Bowl. In a way, the next two weeks are like a curtain call. The supporting cast coming out to take their bow first, and the biggest stars coming out to play one more game for the title.
In addition to the game itself, the event has always been a nice event for the city of Honolulu, and the State of Hawaii. If Seattle fans feel isolated having their team playing in the northwest, imagine how Hawaian fans feel being so far removed from the rest of the country as to not have a team.
Not only is the Pro Bowl a good chance to involve Hawaii in the world of professional football, this year, the league is reaching out across the pacific. The NFL is using the Pro Bowl weekend to help promote American football in Japan. To help strengthen the bond between American Football and Japanese American Football, the Pro Bowl squads will feature practices at Pearl Harbor, and coaching exchanges with Japanese coaches.
Jan 24, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; General view of NFC practice for the 2013 Pro Bowl at Hickam air force base. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Believe it or not, football is actually played in Japanese high schools, colleges, and they have a semi-pro league that features a mix of Japanese and international players. Their championship is now called the X-bowl, and dates back to 1987. For the big picture of the growth of American football, building this international connection can only be seen as a positive.
While the Ichiro of football still may be a few generations away, this weekends prow bowl is dominated by American players. At the end of the day, the bloated statistics, and fanfare in Hawaii may not be as exciting as the Harbaugh brothers playing chess in between rounds of million dollar commercials. However, it is still football, and I’m going to watch it. Let’s hope that the players put on a good show, and that our Seattle Seahawks players give us something to cheer for.