Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pro Bowl positives

All week long, I've listened to analysts, columnists and pesismists complain about the NFL's all-star game: the Pro Bowl. Now it's time for me to complain - about them.

I am tuned in to CBS, home of this year's Pro Bowl, and I've gotta tell you it's not half as bad as all those experts would lead you to believe. Sure, the first quarter went by scoreless, but we've now seen two touchdowns within the first five minutes of the second quarter.

With only 20 minutes of playing time currently ellapsed, I want to recap some of the things we've seen from this Pro Bowl that tells me as a football fan that this game is worth watching:

Listening in
On the AFC's first drive of the game, Peyton Manning drove down to the goal line. On 4th and goal, viewers were treated to something I'd never experienced before: we listened in on the radio call from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels into Manning's helmet.

You couldn't get that sort of access in any other football game. The stakes would be too high, and no team could risk the other team potentially listening in. Here, this is just an exposition game, and there's no real harm in allowing viewers to hear what coordinators say to their players via the helmet-radio.

It's a unique experience you won't get during the regular season. Only in the Pro Bowl. Only in the Pro Bowl.

Everyone's in a good mood
At one point late in the first quarter, one camera caught something you'd never see during the regular season: AFC Head Coach, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots smiled. Yes, that's correct. When have you ever seen that? Here's a hint: you haven't.

The Islands allow everyone to have fun.

What's on your mind?
Player interviews in this game are a lot more fun as well. Shannon Sharpe has been roaming the sidelines, talking to players during the course of the game. Sure, it's just an exposition game, but it was nice to hear from Tiki Barber after he scored a touchdown in his final game.

On the same Tiki-note, he said in an interview Thursday that we was excited to play in this game because it would be the last time he'd be on the same team as his twin brother Ronde Barber (of the Tampa Bay Bucs). That's one moment you wouldn't get without the Pro Bowl.

Holding on
Speaking of Tiki's touchdown, afterwards I got to see something that - as a Cowboys fan - I could really appreciate. Tony Romo is the holder for the NFC today, and he executed his duties perfectly. Awesome.

He's running running and running running
With 7:42 left in the 2nd quarter, we just saw a big fumble return for a TD by Adalius Thomas. It's always fun to see big play touchdowns, and it's not surprise a Baltimore guy scored a defensive touchdown.

Mascot mania
On a missed field goal attempt by the AFC, three mascot collided trying to catch the wide-right kick. There's something to be said for seeing all the mascots going at it. (By the way, as a Cowboys fan, I'm not surprised I haven't seen Rowdy on TV yet. Nothing about him says "All Pro" in the least.)

Scoreboard!
After a scoreless first quarter, the NFC and AFC have combined for an action-packed 28-point effort to close out the half.

Skills Challenge (4:47pm)
It's half time at the Pro Bowl, so CBS is treating viewers to the NFL Skills Challenge. These games went on earlier in the week, of course, but it's fun watching the highlights.

Both Pro Bowl kickers Robbie Gould (CHI) and Nate Kaeding (SD) played a game of KICK - like HORSE in basketball, but for all-star kickers. After banking balls of uprights and the game tied at KIC-KIC, they settled it by seeing who could kick a ball from the practice field and land it closest to a tiki-hut on the beach. They actually had to send a pair of refs down to the beach to judge the landings.

One last note on the Skills Challenge: Tony Romo won the "most accurate passer" competition. Just pointing that out.

Vinsanity (5:00pm)
Enter rookie quarterback Vince Young into the line up. So now you have a backfield of the super-mobile Young and NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. Okay, he's missed on his first two pass attempted, but you can't deny some of the amazing things VY did for the Titans this season.

Romo (5:13pm)
It actually doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would hearing the announcers give Romo the business about his botched hold versus Seattle in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The broadcast team talked about how in practice when they called for the field goal team, players would give Romo a hard time, saying "You're holding?" Looking back, it's kind of amusing now. But it wouldn't have been a month ago.

The Champ is here (5:19pm)
With five minutes to go in the third quarter, Champ Bailey lined up on offense for the AFC. Somewhere in Colorado, Mike Shanahan is giggling and all the while thinking, "hmm, what if?"

Posterized punter (5:21pm)
Wow, that was the biggest hit you'll see in the Pro Bowl. Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman took a snap and ran with it instead of punting the ball away to the NFC. Redskin safety Sean Taylor decided to let the punter know what football is all about, hitting him like a lanky wide out going across the middle.

After getting nearly broken in half, Moornman bounced up to tell Taylor 'nice hit.' And right now, just moments after that hit, Moorman is next to Shannon Sharpe for an interview. I can't wait to hear what he has to say about that hit.

Asian announcing (5:29pm)
CBS made a point that this game is being broadcast all over the world in many different languages. They then took the opportunity to replay the Sean Taylor hit on Brian Moorman overlayed with the Japanese broadcast team's call of the play. As the CBS boys said, it pretty much translates in any language.

Inside the huddle, literally (5:57pm)
Not only are fans at home getting to listen in on the coach-quarterback communication system, but now CBS is getting their cameras in the huddle. Viewers enjoyed a close up shot of Tony Romo calling a play in the huddle, and before the ball was snapped, we could see a camera man and audio guy sprinting off the field.

Belichick (6:13pm)
Shannon Sharpe's interview with Bill Belichick captured the emotion of this Pro Bowl, a fun positive atmosphere where players and coaches alike can really enjoy the setting. Belicheck joked about that Reggie Wayne's touchdown catch for the AFC was the only one of his career Belichick was happy about.

He was smiling and laughing. Bill Belichick. For all you non-football people, the who wore the hoodies out of the dirty-laundry basket. If he's having fun, you know everyone else is. All the more reason the Pro Bowl is fine.

All tied up (6:29)
In the last 1:06, the NFC has scored two touchdowns to tie things up here at the Pro Bowl. They've converted an onside kick and two point conversion to overcome a 14-point deficit. With 1:42 to play in Honolulu, this is a pretty exciting game.

Anyone not ready to let the football season go is getting exactly what they want with this game. It's close, it's competitive. It's football.

Final thought (6:36pm)
Much like Nate Kaedings last-second, game-winning field goal for the AFC, this year's Pro Bowl ... was good.

1 comment:

Blasto said...

Glad you enjoyed the game so much, but you gotta admit, of the Big 3 American sports, the NFL's all-star contest is usually the least competitive, although today's got pretty real in the 4th. Generally, it's in the nature of the thing-- full speed hits are too likely to cause serious injury, and it's just cruel to have that happen in an exhibition.

Which leads me to why I'm here. I just want to record somewhere that Sean Taylor, defensive Pro Bowler from the Redskins, shows himself to be a jackass-- no, make that an azzhole, with his vicious hit on Moorman, the skinny little AFC punter. I mean, it's understood (at least by those of or near normal intelligence) that that kind of running-30-yards-at-top-speed and decking-a-guy-with-full-momentum thing is not to be done in this game... I'm not familiar with this Sean Taylor dude-- is he one of these modern DB hitmen who are so proud of sending people to the hospital? Someday he'll paralyze somebody or worse, then we'll see how he feels. Hell, he'll probably feel great, like the Ultimate Player, yo. (pause, grimace, spit). And these clowns on ESPN and FOX who play highlight reels of brutal hits-- I say the NFL should lean on them to cut out this glorification of out-and-out brutality. It's bad for the sport on many levels & it's a bad reflection on our society... I ain't sayin the American male should become some kinda poodle-y Parisian, but let's roll a little past the stuck-in-adolescence thing huh?

I think I might write the Commissioner's office in this vein, and suggest they make it difficult for Taylor to get to another Pro Bowl.

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