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We’ll talk about this later: The Pro Bowl, a true underdog story

Your dose of lighthearted takes from this week’s happenings.

SPORTS-FBN-PROBOWL-FORMAT-LV Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Each week, we’ll break down something that happened during the Ohio State game (and occasionally other games and events) that we’ll be talking about for a while—you know, the silly sideline interactions, the awful announcing and the weird storylines that stick with us for years to come. We’ll also compare each of these happenings to memorable moments in pop culture, because who doesn’t love a good Office reference?

When I was a kid, the Pro Bowl was simply a football scrimmage in Hawaii. There weren’t that many Cleveland Browns players selected, but it was exciting at least to know that some aspect of the organization was working when players were taken. And it was cool to see former Buckeyes head to the Pro Bowl.

Now, the Pro Bowl looks a lot different. The events of the extended weekend included a skills competition, dodgeball and flag football.

There are legitimate reasons for shifting the format. After a grueling 17-week regular season and several more games for players from playoff teams, the last thing anyone wants to do (I’m guessing, having never played professional football) is put on pads and play another game as a reward for a good season. The players might know each other, but they haven’t practiced together. Folks nursing injuries won’t participate. And players from Super Bowl teams won’t make it.

It seemed that years ago, the Pro Bowl tried to straddle the line between incentive and spectacle, which meant it didn’t do either the incentive thing or the spectacle well. Broadcasting a glorified scrimmage at the end of a season when fans are fatigued from the regular season doesn’t generate a lot of excitement, especially as much of the nation is looking ahead to the Super Bowl. And it didn’t feel much like an incentive for the aforementioned reasons (again, speaking as someone who hasn’t played professional football or been selected to a Pro Bowl).

Now, while the events of the last week have been televised and promoted, it seems like there is at least more of the reward factor for being selected to the Pro Bowl other than getting to play in a scrimmage to end the season. From an outsider’s perspective, it feels more social and engaging.

Plus, as we’ve seen over the last year, flag football in particular has been growing in popularity among girls and women — and playing a flag football game as part of the Pro Bowl is one more way to engage more fans.

And while I can’t say I’m any more liable to watch the events themselves than I was when it was a scrimmage, it’s been cool to see the social content from the different skills challenges. Plus, who doesn’t want to see highlights of some of the best athletes in the world playing dodgeball with each other?