Matthews, Rodgers and Saturday named to the Pro Bowl


Jan 26, 2012, Honolulu, HI, USA; NFC quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers (12) signs autographs for fans during practice for the 2012 Pro Bowl at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League Pro Bowl has become a joke.

Sure, it’s an honor for every player who is selected, to be recognized for their accomplishments during the season. All the players say that.

Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Jeff Saturday – The Packers players named to the team yesterday – said exactly that.

Clay MatthewsRob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Clay Matthews:

"“It means a great deal to me to continue to maintain the success on a personal level year-in and year-out, but ultimately this is a testament to the team that we have. The players around me, the coaching staff, the personnel department, and everybody who is involved with allowing me to do the things I can do on the field and helping to put me in a position to excel.”"

Aaron Rodgers

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers:

"“It’s an honor to be voted in, knowing that it’s a combination of the fans, my fellow players and the coaches. To be recognized by all of those people, it’s pretty special.”"

Jeff SaturdayJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Saturday:

"“Obviously, it’s always an honor. Anytime you get to go to the Pro Bowl, it is an honor and you appreciate everyone, the players, coaches and fans that voted for you. As an offensive lineman, it is nice to get the award.”"

But it’s one of those hollow honors for football players, a chance to hop a plane and head to Hawaii for a week’s vacation following a long, hard season. A time to bask in the sun, play some golf, tour the sights, take a swim and play a football game.

Play a football game?

Well, if that’s what you can call it.

Unlike Major League Baseball’s All-Star game that is not only a stage for the game’s best players, it’s a competition with something on the line – home field advantage for the league’s championship World Series. They have something for which to play.

The NFL’s All-Star game is just that – a whole bunch of multi-millionaires jogging through the motions with quarterbacks and wide receivers playing pitch and catch. It’s not a game … it’s a joke … and something needs to be done with it.

I say scrap it altogether. If the league is going to have a season-ending picnic in Hawaii, then that’s what they should have. Forget the game … play a softball game, volleyball game, pick-up basketball game … whatever. Just get rid of the football game because it’s an embarrassment to the players, the coaches and the league. Everybody laughs out loud about it – heck, even Aaron Rodgers came out last year and blasted the players and the game for what it really is … a laid back laugh.

So, when the players come out today and for the next week and describe how proud they are for having been selected, we all know that in the backs of their minds they are laughing. They are thinking it’s just another bargaining chip that will land them a few million more dollars in their next contract.

You know they are not looking at film, meeting with coaches and actually developing schemes to beat the other team. They are planning their itinerary for themselves and their family. They are scheduling their 10-minute appearance on the NFL Network (another joke, for another column), deciding what they will say when interviewed on the sideline during the game and making flight plans for their next destination after leaving Hawaii.

Sure, they have earned the honor of selection. That’s a good thing. But when the league says there will be an actual game, that is a joke and an insult to the fans who follow the game so passionately and closely.

In the meantime, we have to extend our congratulations to the three Packers selected: Matthews, Rodgers and Saturday – which brings me to the next issue – Jeff Saturday? Really?

I love Mr. Saturday as much as the next Packers fan, but in my mind he really hasn’t had the standout, stout season that we all expected – and to be selected to the Pro Bowl only emphasizes what I’ve been stating all along here.

Jeff Saturday? Really? He was benched last week because he wasn’t meeting team expectations and now he’s an Pro Bowler … hmmmmm.

Anyway, that’s enough … congrats to all who have been selected.

Now, let’s get on to the real games that will be played this weekend. These will be the most important games of the season for so many teams in the league – starting right with the Packers vs. Vikings in Minneapolis.

I’m sure the players are watching plenty of film, meeting with coaches, practicing their butts off and scheming on ways to beat the opponent.

That’s what football’s all about.