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How the NFL Pro Bowl Works


Efforts to Increase the NFL Pro Bowl's Popularity

The NFL implemented the 2010 changes in an effort to increase the game's appeal by capitalizing on the excitement of the pre-Super Bowl buzz. Moving the game to Miami, where the Super Bowl would be played a week later, was supposed to make the game more accessible to fans and the press by keeping it closer to home.

In addition to the schedule and location adjustments, there was also special attention given to improving the fan experience at the game in 2010. The NFL introduced Game Day Fan Plaza, an interactive exhibit that was free of charge and offered participants a chance to test their football skills.

The experiment was a success, at least in terms of generating interest. The sellout crowd was the largest the game has seen in 51 years, and the game was the most watched Pro Bowl telecast in 10 years -- up 40 percent from the year before [source: Pucin].

These improvements came in spite of the absence of some star power we mentioned in the previous section. Though sidelined from the actual contest, Super Bowl players did attend the Pro Bowl, which was highlighted by halftime interviews with quarterbacks Drew Brees of the eventual-champion New Orleans Saints and Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

With the absence of players from the two top teams, along with the rash of players excused due to injuries, the sports media covered the 2010 Pro Bowl as a failure.

And with the Miami experiment behind it, the NFL is moving the Pro Bowl back to Honolulu as part of a two-year agreement with the state of Hawaii to host the game in 2011 and 2012. For 2011, at least, the exhibition game will still take place before the Super Bowl, leaving the same roster issues experienced in 2010.