By JD McKay
The NBA All-Star game is Sunday, which is a joke just like the NFL Pro Bowl and the other two major U.S. sport All-Star games (baseball, football, hockey), but other than Russell Westbrook none of the players really care. Which in turn makes me, the fan, not care either. But after watching the NFL Pro-Bowl about three weeks ago, I know that something needs to change.
The NHL All-Star game is a toughy. The NHL is the most violent sport already, so an exhibition game is not worth the risk to players. However, to make things more interesting, in 2016, the NHL made their game a four-team tournament, using their four divisions as teams and playing three-on-three rather than the typical six-on-six. They also have been using a skills challenge since 1990. The idea of the skills challenge is for players to show off their athletic abilities in events like speed skating, shot power, and shot accuracy. I like what the NHL has done to their All-Star game, and it is just too dangerous to get players out on the ice hitting for no reason in an exhibition.
The NFL Pro-Bowl is the worst. The players do not care at all, and the NFL is not really doing anything. Football obviously has a higher risk of injury than all of these except hockey, but the NFL can do different things to make the game more enjoyable for fans. One change has been made. Last year, the NFL added a skills challenge packed with dodgeball, an obstacle course, and best catches. But more can be done. If the players do not want to play a full pads game, they can go for a game of seven-on-seven football. The idea of seven-on-seven is all passing with only seven players per team, no lineman except for a center to snap the ball. The NFL could do a six team seven-on-seven tournament. The fans would vote in the players; then a middle linebacker and quarterback would be paired together. They would then draft their team.
The NBA game is all about the player attitudes. They do not care. Basketball can still be dangerous, but compared to football or hockey, it is much safer. If the players would be willing to play harder, it would be interesting. However, the players will not care until they have a real reason, a green reason. The NBA could promise bonuses to the players of the winning team, giving the players a reason to play to win.
Lastly, the MLB is one of the most watchable games. It is a typical baseball game, but pitchers pitch for two innings, tops. They could stay as it is, or to make this a little for interesting, pick four celebrities to pick teams with players voted on by fans. The team would play a three-inning game, tournament style. The other change the MLB should make is a true skills challenge, they have a home run derby, but they do not have a legit skills challenge like the other sports. They could do an outfielder’s accuracy and far throw contest, a pitch speed contest, and stick with the homerun derby.
Those sports all need to make a change. Baseball’s change is relatively small, and hockey’s may just be too dangerous, but football and basketball need to change. Hopefully, they will, but I am not really expecting it.