Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and the Eastern Conference goes up for a layup between Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Western Conference and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and the Western Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center on February 20 2011 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Professional sports All-Star games have turned into farces that only dimly resemble the sports they're supposed to represent the "best of". It's time to end these things.
We are at the end of the fall and winter sports All-Star season -- the NFL Pro Bowl, NHL All-Star Game and NBA All-Star Game are now in the books -- and are on to more important things, like March Madness and the slog toward the NBA and NHL playoffs, which will likely end when it's about 90 degrees outside, even if you can't quite fathom that with snow either on the ground where you are or about to come back after a brief interregnum of thaw.
These games are getting so ridiculous in their overkill that it's time to say "enough" and just kill them. Why? Here's why.
The NFL Pro Bowl has descended into almost complete irrelevance. Now played the week before the Super Bowl, that means that the best players from (presumably) the best two teams in the league don't participate. Other players begged off this year, leaving it to have the feeling (and impact) of an NFL team's second preseason game. If we're not going to see the best players play, what's the point? No one plays defense, either -- over the last 10 games, only one of the teams (2005 AFC) has failed to score at least 20 points, and seven of them have scored more than 40. It's not really football. If the league wants to honor the players and give them a reward, choose up the squads and give them a vacation to Hawaii. Just don't bother playing the game.
The NHL has messed around with its All-Star format so many times it's hard to even keep track -- going from East vs. West to Wales vs. Campbell (essentially, East vs. West, except with dressed-up conference names) to North America vs. the World, back to East vs. West. Now, this year, they made it a glorified pickup game, so you really didn't know who was on anyone's team. And like the other games, no one plays defense; for the second straight year and third in the last ten, both teams scored ten or more goals. How'd you like to be either goalie in a game like that?
The NHL already has two midseason spectacles -- the Winter Classic, and yesterday's Heritage Classic, both of which get the league some great attention and provide much better hockey. Why not arrange the midseason break around these two games, maybe have the skills competition, and ditch the silly multigoal mess that the All-Star Game is?
And the NBA... oh, man, that's just turned into a bloated realm of nonsense. As I understand it, now we have to get people's attention in the slam dunk contest by driving a car onto the court and getting someone to jump over the car while being fed a ball through the sunroof, and then slam it? What if he misses? What if he trips over the car and tears up knee ligaments? What's next? Holding this thing outdoors and dropping a basketball out of a helicopter so it can be slammed? (Seriously, NBA: pretend you never heard that idea.)
The game itself was just like the other two -- no defense played, and it's been that way for a very long time; no NBA All-Star squad has scored fewer than 110 points since 1976 and the winner has scored at least 134 for the last five years. And Derrick Rose? Hey, man -- great job getting selected as a starter and you might be headed to a MVP season and lead your team to heights we haven't seen in more than a decade.
But please. Ditch the yellow shoes. Those are just... bizarre.
So is the game, which included a whacked-out halftime show that looked like it belonged on some cable channel other than TNT (as did the musical interludes the previous night during the "skills" competition, which would be better titled "NBA Freak Show"). The in-game interviews are pointless. Craig Sager, do you really thing Carmelo Anthony is going to say, "Sure, I want to play my next game for the (Nets/Knicks/PickYourTeam)"?
If the NBA players need some time off during the admittedly long season, give it to 'em -- like the NFL players, name teams and give them a free trip. Just don't play the game.
I haven't even mentioned the MLB All-Star Game, which drifted into such irrelevance that Bud Selig ordered it to "count", only having World Series home field determined by the result of a game that's played like a spring training split-squad game is just plain silly. The baseball All-Star contest is the oldest of these and was started in 1933 to boost interest in a sport that was suffering from some lack of attention during the Depression. Again, give the players a midseason break; maybe figure out a way to play the World Baseball Classic during that time, where you'd actually get some attention for it.
We don't have that problem now. It's time to end sports All-Star games and get back to focusing the leagues on what's important -- winning championships.