Today’s NBA All-Star game mercifully wraps up the All-Star game season, ending a three week stretch of All-Star games for the NBA, NFL, and NHL. All-Star games are meant to highlight the talents of our superstar athletes. However over the last decade or so, the games have devolved into nothing more than boring snooze fests. The high honors once brought by being named an All-Star have been thrown aside in favor of simply being another added bonus to the athlete’s million dollar contracts.
All-Star games began as a way to showcase talented athletes. The only way fans were able to see stars from across the whole league, was to watch the sports respective All-Star game. However with the exposure of the league’s increasing, and addition of interleague play in MLB, fans are no longer missing out on seeing the league’s top players.
There are games from any sport on television at any night during the season. In baseball a fan in Atlanta could see Mike Trout in person as baseball’s interleague schedule is designed for all teams to face each other within a four year period. Although I am in St. Louis, and two of the NHL’s bigger stars (Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin) reside in the Eastern Conference, I can just watch them on NBC Sports network. The NFL has become so big that their games are on three days a week during the fall, including all day Sunday. The NBA has probably the best league wide channel, offering fans to watch any game for $200.
Not only has the novelty of seeing a league’s stars been eliminated but the stars themselves no longer welcome the title of All-Star in the same way. How many times do you hear about a player pulling out of the All-Star game due to injury, being worn down, or some other excuse. This is not to overlook the importance of being healthy but it’s simply not as big of a deal for them. They would rather be healthy for the regular season, or games that matter, than participating in a glorified exhibition game.
The NHL has done it best in embracing their All-Star game as an exhibition. A few years back they changed the selection process into a fantasy type draft. It was even unique when they broadcast the All-Star draft and showed the players being a little “lively” thanks to some libations. Most recently the NHL changed their game to a 3 on 3 tournament style. They have embraced the game for what it is, an exhibition. However the game itself still holds no true excitement or thrill.
The NFL followed the NHL by installing a fantasy style draft but the Pro Bowl, which the NFL says they want to resemble a real game, remains a version of an NFL video game (although as the league progresses the game may be headed more in this direction). Much in the same way the NFL Pro Bowl doesn’t resemble an actual game, the NBA All-Star game is nothing more than wide open dunks or attempts to see how far out they can hit a three. The worst of the All-Star games is MLB, which tries to put an importance on the game by putting World Series home field advantage on the line. This is absurd considering the simple fact that every team needs to be represented on the rosters, meaning you are placing home field advantage in the hands of player’s who may not even be the league’s best players.
All you need to do is look at the ratings, this year’s Pro Bowl drew a 5.6, down drastically from just two years ago. The last time the MLB All-Star game drew double figures in ratings was in 2001, drawing a 6.6 in 2015. The NBA All-Star game has topped a 5.0 rating just once since 2004, although with Kobe’s retirement it may draw higher today. The only ratings increase for any league was the NHL All-Star game, up 33-percent from the previous year. Although if you look at the actual rating of 1.2 that remains a miniscule rating.
So what to do? The league’s like the built in break during the season and it is a good break to have. So why not leave the break in for the league’s and turn it into an exhibition series; a time to look back and highlight the first-half. Hold skills contests, maybe use the time to get to know the players off the field. The easiest concept would be for the NFL, turning their Pro Bowl weekend into a season wrap up weekend. Since their game is between end of the regular season and the Super Bowl, why not host players at an awards ceremony type banquet. Fans, players, times have changed…now is time for the league’s to follow suit. It is time for the league’s to wake up and get the fans out of their All-Star game snooze.