After a one-year hiatus, the NFL Pro Bowl will return to Oahu’s Aloha Stadium on January 30. That’s good news for the state’s still-sputtering economy, good news for local sports fans who manage to score tickets—and most of all good news for the players, who last year were forced to accept thousands of dollars to play a meaningless exhibition in South Florida (shudder).
Roster selections—made by a combination of player, coach and fan voting—came out last week and featured the usual assortment of snubs, head-scratchers and downright WTFs. Oh sure, guys who were left off may end up playing anyway if someone gets injured or can’t participate because his team made the Super Bowl. And even the most undeserving players are still pretty good. Also, it’s the Pro Bowl, so who really cares?
Us, that’s who!
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?
To the Pro Bowl, apparently. Despite finishing a disappointing 6-10 and being basically a trainwreck in shoulder pads all season, “America’s team” is sending five players to Honolulu. OK, one of them is a punter, which doesn’t really count, and none are glaringly unworthy. But come on. This isn’t about the players—it’s about the uniform they wear and the gargantuan, bajillion-dollar stadium they play in and the smug douche bag who owns them. The Cowboys are the team everyone except Dallas fans actively root against. With so many Cowboys being recognized as the best of the best, we’re denied that one, final twist of the knife.
Johnson Doesn’t Measure Up
Last year, in his second season, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson defined breakout, rushing for 2,000-plus yards and 14 touchdowns and making opposing defenses look like Pop Warner scrubs. Then he went and opened his yapper, promising to have an even bigger 2010—which he didn’t. His rushing total fell to 1,364 yards and his TDs to 11. Quite a dropoff, but he’s not being measured against 2009 Chris Johnson; he’s being measured against all other 2010 running backs. And by that metric he still deserved to go—Johnson had a higher yards-per-carry average and a half-dozen more touchdowns than the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew, who will be sipping pre-game mai tais.
Don’t Do Suggs
For the casual fan, it’s easy to look at tackles as the measure of a defensive player. It is, after all, the object of the game. But it’s at best an incomplete stat, and at worst leads to a guy like Baltimore Ravens loudmouth Terrell Suggs (the dude who thought he was insulting Tom Brady by reminding him he has a super hot wife) making the Pro Bowl. Yes, Suggs had a few more tackles than, say, left-off San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, but Phillips had equal or better stats across the rest of the board and he ran his only interception of the season (Suggs didn’t have any) back for a 31-yard TD.
This was easily the biggest omission, both because quarterbacks get all the attention and because the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers had a monster season: 3,922 yards passing, 28 TDs to 11 interceptions and another 356 yards rushing and four scores. Oh yeah, and Rodgers did it without a superstar supporting cast, taking his team on his back and carrying them to the playoffs. So who does Rodgers replace on the NFC squad? Funny you should ask…
One Vick Puppy
Almost everyone has forgiven Michael Vick. The fans in Philadelphia were the first—watching a backup QB morph into an MVP candidate will do that—and most other fans, and the league, quickly followed suit. Then the general public accepted him back and next thing you knew he was getting props from President Obama, being held up as a shining example of rehabilitation and the redemptive power of the human spirit.
Screw that. What everyone has forgotten (or chosen to ignore) is that Vick isn’t merely some guy who made a few bad decisions. We’re not talking about a momentary lapse in judgement or a brief run-in with the law. We’re talking about torturing, maiming and killing dogs—repeatedly, systematically, over a long period of time. For fun.
Animal rights activists say Vick should still be rotting in jail. But what good would that do? We say he should be spending his days scooping poop and filling food bowls at an animal shelter for minimum wage, and then, in his spare time, speaking out against the kind of senseless cruelty he once reveled in (and no, a few canned sound bites and photo ops don’t count).
Sure, everyone deserves a second chance. But there’s a difference between getting a second chance and getting to become a multi-millionaire superstar just three years after pleading guilty to financing a dogfighting operation that used methods like drowning and electrocution to kill under-performing animals. (Seriously, if you don’t know the details, read the indictment. It’ll make your stomach turn.)
Vick should have been banned for life. Instead, he’ll be soaking up the sun—and adulation—on Oahu. Hopefully Hawaii’s dog lovers will show up to let him know we haven’t all moved on.