The Pro Bowl may not have been trending on Twitter Sunday night because it was opposite the Grammys, but that doesn't mean people weren't watching what in recent years has become wholly unwatchable.
Last night' Pro Bowl on NBC drew 11.4 million viewers, the most-watch sports all-star game of the past year.— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) January 27, 2014
For the first time ever, the Pro Bowl featured "unconferenced" teams with players selected not based on their AFC or NFC affiliation but via a two-day draft. The result: a 22-21 win for Team Rice that came down to the last play, a failed Justin Tucker 67-yard field-goal attempt.
(You could argue that Antonio Cromartie should have been awarded six points after he fielded Tucker's field-goal attempt in his own end zone and returned it for a touchdown. Yes, both teams had already made their way onto the field before Cromartie crossed the goal line, but there was a band on the field during the 1982 Cal-Stanford game. Of course, this oversight mattered to exactly one group of people: Those with money on the game. Bovada had Team Rice a 1.5-point favorites over Team Sanders. So, yeah.)
The margin of victory in the last three Pro Bowls: 27, 18, 14. And the suddenly competitive nature of the game didn't go unnoticed by the man who gave serious consideration to canceling it altogether: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"You have to admit it was very competitive," Goodell told ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning, according to PFT.com. "Exciting. Fun. I think the players played much harder.
"I believe it was a very, very positive step," he continued. "I salute the players."
Recently, NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth told USAToday.com that the Pro Bowl was on life support.
"Roger was very serious about potentially canceling the Pro Bowl because apparently it's very expensive and isn't of a ton of value to them," Foxworth said. "To be honest with you, I was completely comfortable with eliminating it until I talked to the players, and they said they loved it and they want to be there."
Interestingly, the players weren't crazy about the new-fangled Pro Bowl draft, that was a two-day, four-hour television event last week. Mostly because players didn't want to be in the awkward position of having to hit their regular-season teammates.
"That's the only legitimate concern, and I completely understand it," Foxworth said. "I was faced with the possibility of canceling the game or trying to make it interesting. If some of these conflicts that we create make it so we can't go forward, then we'll throw the game out."