Ah, the All-Star games. While nobody is ever lining up outside a bar to get in and watch the All-Star game, it provides for a somewhat entertaining event. The constant battle between fans wanting athletes to take it seriously while also wanting six Hail Mary touchdowns in one quarter makes for an impossible scenario in which to enjoy the game.
One of the issues with these games is the leagues’ inability to pin down exactly what fans want to see. It seems like every year, they switch up the formula to try and get people to pay attention, just to confuse casual fans with a bunch of nonsense.
Some leagues do it better than others, but all four need some work. Here’s the big four U.S. sports leagues’ All-Star Weekend festivities, based on entertainment value:
NFL Pro Bowl
The NFL Pro Bowl has never been known for holding anyone on the edge of their seat. For years, fans have complained that there is no defense, no competitive spirit and no effort. On top of that, many of the NFL’s actual pro-bowlers end up rejecting the offer to play in the game. Back in 2013, the league tried to spice things up by allowing former NFL stars to draft their own teams. This continued for several seasons, but in 2016 they reverted back to the traditional AFC v. NFC format. This year, the teams actually played some defense, and it still wasn’t that interesting. The AFC won 20-13, with Travis Kelce winning the MVP.
For the first time, however, the Pro Bowl wasn’t the only event of the weekend. This season, the NFL added on a Pro Bowl Skills Challenge. While it didn’t offer quite the same excitement that the NBA Slam Dunk Contest or Three Point Contest provide, the NFL may have something worth keeping around a few more years to see if it catches on. Any time you can get grown men to compete against each other catching footballs from a drone, it might be worth another look.
It seems odd that the most popular sports league in America has one of the least interesting “All-Star” events, but with the popularity of the NFL, the ceiling is very high if they can find something to latch on to.
NHL All-Star Weekend
The NHL All-Star Weekend is probably the weirdest out of all four major sports. Instead of one game, the NHL plays three 20-minute games in a 3-on-3 elimination tournament, with a semi-final and final round occurring after elimination play. In addition to this, the NHL has a skills challenge similar to the NBA.
After John Scott in 2016, the NHL was fighting an uphill battle if they were trying to increase popularity with their All-Star Game. The bizarre concept that an unknown enforcer from the Phoenix Coyotes could get voted in, win the MVP and actually play well baffled minds everywhere, and made a lot of headlines in the process.
This year, there were several interesting storylines. A few days before the weekend was set to get underway, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told the Colombus Dispatch that he had a family matter to attend to and would not be able to coach the Metropolitan Division. In his place, Wayne Gretzky stepped in. Gretzky’s last official coaching experience came from 2005-09, when he was head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes for four seasons.
However, the real talent here was Ilya Bryzgalov. For those unfamiliar with him, he’s the one who brought us this gem:
Also, the dude has some deep thoughts on everything from the universe to Russian booze, as we see in this clip from Episode 1 of HBO’s 24/7 Flyers v. Rangers from the 2012 NHL Winter Classic:
This year, they let him be a guest reporter for All-Star weekend, and the results were exactly what you might expect:
And of course, he asks the universally unknown question: is a hot dog a sandwich?
MLB All-Star Weekend
The MLB is the only league to put a real stake in their All-Star game, and they usually end up being pretty damn interesting. In recent years, the retirements of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and David Ortiz have given the All-Star Game more attention, and the Home Run Derby almost always delivers on our expectations.
The Home Run Derby has given us plenty of action the past few years, with Yoenis Cespedes going back-to-back in 2013 and 2014, and Todd Frazier and Giancarlo Stanton followed up the following years.
The MLB also has the advantage of holding their All-Star festivities in July, the worst month for sports. Because of this, it’s one of the only interesting things going on all month, and it looks a lot better.
NBA All-Star Weekend
The NBA does a great job promoting All-Star Weekend, and despite the lack of stars in the Slam Dunk Contest, it almost always ends up being a great show. Plus, there was that time last year that Kevin Hart accidentally beat Draymond Green in a 3-point contest.
Hopefully we get the same great theater this year. The league has been using #NBAVote to allow fans to have a say this year, but now players also can chime in. Some players have been campaigning with fans in order to secure a nomination, while others don’t seem to care as much.
The Three-Point Shootout will be interesting this year as well- Steph Curry won in 2015, while teammate Klay Thompson took the crown the following year. Who knows, maybe KD will take it now? NBA All-Star Weekend is only a couple weeks away, and while nobody is really out here getting pumped up for an All-Star game, let’s just hope it will at least be.. mildly entertaining.