Pro Bowl

The National Football League All-Star Game (1939–1942), Pro Bowl (1951–2022), or Pro Bowl Games[1] (since 2023) is an annual event held by the National Football League (NFL) featuring the league's star players.

Pro Bowl Games
National Football League All-Star Game (1939–1942)
Pro Bowl (1951–2022)
The logo for the NFL Pro Bowl
Location(s)Varies (see text)
Previous eventFebruary 5, 2023
(Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada)
ParticipantsAmerican Football Conference
National Football Conference
Organized byNational Football League

The format has changed throughout the years. Between 1939 and 1942, the NFL experimented with all-star games pitting the league's champion against a team of all-stars. The first official Pro Bowl was played in January 1951, matching the top players in the American/Eastern Conference against those in the National/Western Conference. From the merger with the rival American Football League (AFL) in 1970 up through 2013 and also in 2017, it was officially called the AFC–NFC Pro Bowl, matching the top players in the American Football Conference (AFC) against those in the National Football Conference (NFC). From 2014 through 2016, the NFL experimented with an unconferenced format, where the teams were selected by two honorary team captains (who are each in the Hall of Fame), instead of selecting players from each conference.[2] The players were picked in a televised "schoolyard pick" prior to the game.[3]

For years, the game suffered from lack of interest for its perceived low quality,[4] with observers and commentators expressing their disfavor with it.[5] It drew lower television ratings than regular season NFL games,[6] although the game drew similar ratings to the all-star games of the other major North American sports leagues, such as the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.[7] However, the biggest concern was to avoid injuries to the star players.[8] The Associated Press wrote that players in the 2012 game were "hitting each other as though they were having a pillow fight".[9] Despite these criticisms, however, players who were selected to the Pro Bowl were nonetheless honored in a similar standing to their counterparts in the other leagues, and being named to it is considered to be a significant accomplishment for any player. In September 2022, the NFL announced that the Pro Bowl game would switch to a non-contact flag football game in 2023, as well as a partnership with Peyton Manning's Omaha Productions to revamp Pro Bowl week as the "Pro Bowl Games".[1]

Unlike the other major North American sports leagues, which hold their all star weekends roughly midway through their regular seasons, the NFL has held theirs at or near the end of NFL season. Before the merger, the game was played annually after the NFL Championship Game. Between 1970 and 2009, the Pro Bowl was usually held the weekend after the Super Bowl. From 2010 to 2022, it was played the Sunday before the Super Bowl; as a result, players from the two teams competing in the Super Bowl did not participate.

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