By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In a delicious bit of irony, the NHL All-Star Game drew record ratings while showcasing and glorifying the very type of player that the league is actively phasing out.READ MORE: Should The FDA Recommend COVID Booster Shots? Dr. Mallika Marshall Answers Key Questions Around The Debate
John Scott’s internet troll-backed participation in the All-Star Game, which made national headlines, was surreal enough. But the 6’8″ barbarian with 5 goals in his entire career somehow found the back of the net twice, scored himself a brand new truck by earning MVP honors, and got carried around the rink on the shoulders of actual All-Stars.
The game drew a 1.17 overnight rating, which is officially the “best on record” for an All-Star Game on NBCSN. The number is still down 14 percent from the 2012 edition of the game, but nearly 25 percent better than last year’s game – a clear indication that Scott’s story and the new format piqued some viewers’ interest.
Considering the way that fighters are being eradicated from the NHL, and that the new 3-on-3 format emphasized speed and skill more than ever before, this can’t possibly be how the league front office drew it up.
Contrast the NHL’s relative success with the NFL’s annual farce, the Pro Bowl. Always an inexplicably popular, tediously crude facsimile of the real NFL product – which itself is not perfect these days – the Pro Bowl still does solid ratings for an exhibition game but perennially irks those who love to watch and cover actual football games.
However, the Pro Bowl’s popularity is taking a sharp downturn. Sunday’s game, which the Patriots apparently shunned as a team, did a 5.0 overnight rating, according to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily. That’s down from 5.6 last season and 6.7 the year before that. As long as the NFL exists, people will watch, even the Pro Bowl – but the tumbling ratings is an obvious sign that the game is quickly losing value as a product.
It could be time for the NFL to try experimenting with the Pro Bowl format, even if it is something slightly gimmicky like 3-on-3 hockey. Maybe just make it 7-on-7 with flags? Give every possession a 2-minute limit and force the offense to score a touchdown before time runs out? Maybe try one of these radical suggestions?
The Pro Bowl may technically still “win” in the ratings, but it becomes less watchable with every passing year. The NHL is a distant fourth in the popularity of the major pro sports leagues, yet managed to spike their own ratings in a meaningless exhibition. They recognized that their product needed modification, so they changed it for the better. The NFL should try to do the same.MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Reports 1,999 New COVID-19 Cases, 16 Additional Deaths
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.