Woe is us–the NFL just announced that they’ll play the 2015 Pro Bowl in Arizona. They also said that the game would return to Hawaii’s Aloha Stadium in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped our state’s official boosters from genuflecting before Father Football.
“We are pleased that the NFL Pro Bowl will return to Hawaii in 2016 and look forward to welcoming the fans, players and their families back to our Hawaiian Islands,” stated the Hawaii Tourism Authority‘s official statement on the announcement. “We are grateful for our more than 30-year relationship with the NFL and look to continue our friendship for many years to come.”
Of course, Governor Neil Abercrombie had to pat the state on its head and tell it to never stop dreaming.
“While we would like to have had the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in 2015, the return of the Pro Bowl in 2016 provides the state with an opportunity to showcase our islands unique culture and beauty. Our state stands ready to create another memorable experience for the world’s best football players, their families and the fans.”
Spare me. The Pro Bowl, which the NFL played in Hawaii from 1980 to 2009 and again from 2011 until this year, was never about “showcasing” the state or it’s “culture.” It was about bringing gobs of money into the state–a fact the HTA had the decency to point out in its statement:
“In 2014, the Pro Bowl attracted 47,270 attendees and reached 11.4 million viewers across the U.S., making it the most watched all-star game in the nation, resulting in more than $200 million in media value. It also contributed an estimated $71.9 million in direct visitor spending in the state, not inclusive of the production costs of the game and events surrounding Pro Bowl week, which is estimated at an additional $8.9 million.”
The problem though, is that recent sports journalism has shown this to be blood money. Pro football is a sport that just doesn’t include violence, but goes out of its way to wallow in it. “The National Football League markets and manufactures controlled violence and mayhem better than any other league in the history of organized sports,” William C. Rhoden wrote in the Jan. 21 New York Times.
Even damning, viscerally compelling documentaries like Frontline‘s October 2013 “League of Denial,” which showed in gruesome detail the NFL’s continuous and disingenous denial that the head injuries most players sustain during games actually do cause lifelong health problems (and which you can watch here), can’t hope to end our nation’s infatuation with NFL violence.
“Fans see this revolving door of injuries with so much regularity that they run the risk of becoming desensitized,” Rhoden wrote. “The hits become like cartoon violence. This may one day catch up with football, and either put it out of business or relegate it to the margins of society. But we are decades away from that.”
Alas, there is good news in Hawaii’s 2015 Pro Bowl loss: the HTA announced that they would “reprioritize the funds that would have supported the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl” to the 2016 and 2017 games as well as helping to “diversify our tourism economy.”
Photo of Deion Sanders at a practice before the 2014 Pro Bowl: Sgt. Kyle Richardson/Wikimedia Commons