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Grimes: All-star games have lost their competitive edge

Alec Grimes
Alec Grimes

This past Sunday both the NHL and the NFL hosted their all-star contests, the NHL All-Star Game was the 60th in league history and the NFL Pro Bowl was the 64th annual contest. While both games were marquee events that continued the tradition of featuring the game’s best, they lacked the fundamental aspect of sports — competition.

The NHL All-Star Game provided many exciting scoring plays by skilled shooters, but there was no hustle or effort to be seen. There was a whopping total of 29 goals in the game, which is at least triple the amount seen in a regular season match up. A laundry list of All-Star Game records were set for scoring; most goals by one team (17), most goals in a game (29), most goals in one period (11), fastest back-to-back goals (8 seconds apart) and fastest 4 goals (in first 2:27 of 2nd period). While these historic records were set in large part due to impressive skills by great players, they were also dependent on the lack of effort and poor defensive play.

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Throughout the game players were skating at a leisurely pace while showing very few signs of diligent effort. Players also gave a half-hearted defensive effort by not checking, using weak poke checks and not attempting to block shots. This game is viewed by players as their mid-season “break,” but that shouldn’t mean that they are entitled to play with minimal effort. Players should be responsible for putting in the same amount of effort that they did in earning an All-Star selection in the first place. Players owe it to their loyal fans to put on a show in return for their support throughout the season.

The NFL Pro Bowl was also very noncompetitive, although the final score (32-28) would suggest otherwise.

Over the past few years the Pro Bowl has become a joke and has experienced an all-time low in viewership ratings. The problems with the Pro Bowl are endless, but for starters, any and all hits have been eliminated.

In the first few plays of the game the ball was handed off to Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. On these plays the defense either forgot how to tackle or could care less about playing hard, as Murray was held up by defenders who were only waiting for a whistle to blow. Player safety is always a concern, but with today’s rules that already emphasize the protection of players, the Pro Bowl should be played similar to any other regular season game.

Another problem with this game is that it is a trial run for future NFL rules and procedures. This year the goal posts were narrowed by four feet and extra points were attempted from a further distance than usual. Kicking is a vital part of the game and decides many contests, so it should not be changed unless there is some functional error with it. With players holding back and different rules being enforced, the Pro Bowl has lost any competitiveness that it once had.

The change of format in each all-star game has been another key factor in the decline of competitive play. With the new fantasy draft format for selecting teams, many players have been opposite their beloved teammates. Obviously a player is not going to give 100 percent if it means hitting his own teammate and making him susceptible to injury.

Both leagues should consider using incentives to entice players to give more effort in All-Star Games. More effort would cause more fans to be interested in the game and watch it for what it is meant to be, a competitive game between some of the world’s best athletes.

Collegian Sports Reporter Alec Grimes can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @GrimesAlec.

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