Wednesday, January 15, 2014

NFL Pro Bowl Debuts

On Jan. 15, 1939, the NFL hosts the first ever Pro Bowl.

The New York Giants played the Pro All-Stars at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, Calif. The Giants won the game by a score of 13-10 over a team that had several future Hall of Fame inductees.

The NFL's version of the all-star game would change formats over several years. Sometimes teams would play college stars. Other times the game would be held in the summer.

For the first time in 1939, the Pro Bowl was held after the season was over.

The NFL All-Star Game was played again in Los Angeles in 1940 and then in New York and Philadelphia in 1941 and 1942 respectively. Although originally planned as an annual contest, the all-star game was discontinued after 1942 because of travel restrictions put in place during World War I.

During the first five all-star games, an all-star team would face that year's league champion. The league champion won the first four games before the all-stars were victorious in the final game of this early series.

The concept of an all-star game would not be revived until June 1950, when the newly christened "Pro Bowl" was approved.

The Los Angeles Publishers Association sponsored the game. It was decided that the game would feature all-star teams from each of the league's two divisions rather than the league champion versus all-star format, which had been used previously.

This was done to avoid confusion with the Chicago College All-Star Game, an annual game that featured the league champion against a collegiate all-star team. The coach of each of the division champions would lead the teams.

The first 21 games of the series (1951–1972) were played in Los Angeles, California. The site of the game was changed annually for each of the next seven years before the game was moved to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii for thirty consecutive seasons from 1980 through 2009.

The 2010 Pro Bowl was played at Sun Life Stadium, the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins and host site of Super Bowl XLIV, on January 31, the first time ever that the Pro Bowl was held before the championship game, with the new rule that the conference teams do not include players from the teams that will be playing in the Super Bowl. T

The 2011 and 2012 Pro Bowls were played again in Hawaii, but again held during the week before the Super Bowl.

Since the merger with the rival American Football League (AFL) in 1970, it has been officially called the AFC–NFC Pro Bowl, matching the top players in the American Football Conference (AFC) against those in the National Football Conference (NFC).

Unlike most other sports leagues, which hold their all-star games during (roughly) the halfway point of their respective regular seasons, the Pro Bowl is played at the end of the NFL season.

Currently, players are voted into the Pro Bowl by the coaches, the players themselves, and the fans. Each group's ballots count for one third of the votes. The fans vote online at the NFL's official website. There are also replacements that go to the game should any selected player be unable to play due to injuries. Prior to 1995, only the coaches and the players made Pro Bowl selections.

In order to be considered a Pro Bowler for a given year, a player must either have been one of the initial players selected to the team, or a player who accepts an invitation to the Pro Bowl as an alternate; invited alternates who decline to attend are not considered Pro Bowlers. Being a Pro Bowler is considered to be a mark of honor, and players who are accepted into the Pro Bowl are considered to be elite.

The Pro Bowl head coaches are traditionally the head coaches of the teams that lost in the AFC and NFC championship games for the same season of the Pro Bowl in question (not the case for the 1980 and 1981 seasons, regarding the Pro Bowls played in 1981 and 1982). However, for the 2010 and 2011 Pro Bowls, a new rule was presented: The teams that lose in the divisional playoff game with the best regular-season record will have their coaching staffs lead their respective conference Pro Bowl team. If the losing teams of each conference had the same regular season record the coaches from the higher-seeded team will get the Pro Bowl honor.

A Player of the Game was honored from 1951–56. From 1957–71, awards were presented to both an Outstanding Back and an Outstanding Lineman.

In 1972, there were awards for both an Outstanding Offensive Player and an Outstanding Defensive Player.

From 1973–2007, only one Player of the Game award was honored (though three times this award has been presented to multiple players in a single game).

In 2008 the award was changed to Most Valuable Player (MVP)..

Since 1984 the winner has received the Dan McGuire Award.

Players are paid for participating in the game with the winning team receiving a larger payout. In the 2011 season, a record $50,000 was awarded for a win versus $25,000 for the losers.

The NFL's all-star game draws bigger television ratings than all other major sports all-star games. The 2012 Pro Bowl drew 13.5 million viewers

Despite the great viewership and the “fun” aspect the Pro Bowl has for players, on Oct. 24, 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had second thoughts about the Pro Bowl taking place this year, telling a Sirius XM show that if the players did not play more competitively, he is “not inclined to play it anymore.”