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Column: All-Star and Pro-Bowl

Bill Stafford | Sports Columnist | 02/02/2011

We’re half way through the 82-game schedule in the NHL, and the Superbowl is just around the corner. You know what that means? If you guessed All-Star and Pro-Bowl weekend you are correct. It’s an exciting time in sports to see the best of the best play against each other on the same field/ice. But which sport has the best all star-weekend?

As a very smart sports commentator  once said, “The NFL deserves three to six months of coverage daily,” and he’s right.

America watches football more than any other American sport and nearly worships the ground the players walk on. Many of the players are overpaid and overrated, but nothing is more overrated in the NFL than the Pro-Bowl. Many of the NFL’s best players do not participate in the game because it was recently moved to a week before the Superbowl, this doesn’t allow the best players from the Superbowl teams to play.

Replacements are chosen from eliminated teams which gives the game a bit of a watered down feel. Also, the NFL has no well televised and advertised skills competition. All the Pro-bowl consists of is vacationing professional football players not playing 100% in fear of getting hurt.

The NBA has similar problems with their mid-season All-Star festivities. Although they have great skill competitions like the 3-point shootout, ball handling and passing competitions, and the slam dunk contest, very few of the most popular NBA stars opt out of participating in the events.

Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are two of the most popular NBA players and both are notorious for skipping out on the All-Star festivities. This leaves a lineup with many no-namers, which is good for young player exposure, but bad for ratings and entertainment, which is a huge part of All-Star game weekends.

Baseball seems to have it down. Every year there is a prospects game, celebrity softball game, home-run derby, and an All-Star game which the winner comes out of with home field advantage for the world series. This is genius on the MLB’s part because it silences those who say that All-Star games don’t matter.

However, baseball is known for one of the worst decisions in All-Star game history. In 2002, commissioner Bud Selig made the executive decision to call the game a 7-7 tie after 12 innings. The choice brought much criticism, but the switch to make the game matter guaranteed a tie would never happen again.

But the best All-Star weekend has to go to the NHL. This year, there was no East and West, no coach/player polls, and no players opting-out of playing. Two players were chosen to pick players fantasy draft style, no matter what team they’re on. Multiple skills competitions were held including, fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy challenge, shootout challenge, skills relay and hardest shot competition. Score was kept for all of these competitions and the players cared about performing well.

The NHL All-Star weekend takes the cake over its other professional sport competitions simply for its creativity, innovation and willingness to experiment. Although the game play was a bit slower, the players worked hard and put on a great show for the crowd in Carolina.