The NFL Pro Bowl and Focusing On Things That Matter

Posted on January 28, 2013 | in Change Management, Football, Inventory, Kaizen, Lean Wastes, Overproduction, Quality, Sports | by

Kyle Rudolph Pro Bowl MVP

There is serious talk at the highest league levels about discontinuing the NFL Pro Bowl, and for very good reason.

– The game really only serves as a vacation for the players no longer vying for the Super Bowl.
– The game results themselves don’t matter so the players don’t try really hard to win. The product is low in quality.
– The players either don’t want to risk injury or are recovering from a very trying football season.
– The game is no longer a high-profile event since it occurs the week before the Super Bowl.

Where regular season games are high intensity and matter in the season standings, the Pro Bowl might feature the best players in the league (save for those playing in the Super Bowl) but even that isn’t enough to get fans to shell out hundreds of bucks to see those players putting forth minimal effort. Aloha Stadium regularly seats 50,000 fans but yesterday’s attendance fell well short of that mark. Without the aid of looking it up, I couldn’t tell you if the game was televised or what station carried it if it was.

The NFL Pro Bowl is a shining example of investing in a product, process, or event that doesn’t deliver value. If the event itself doesn’t genuinely matter much, why continue it?

Whenever there’s a situation where perceived value is lower than its investment, there are a few options to consider:

– Make the situation (product, process, or event) matter more
– Discontinue the product, process, or event
– Continue to stagnate

Using Major League Baseball as an example, the MLB All-Star Game mattered for bragging rights and players took it very seriously (some more than others). Over time the value of the game diminished so greatly that superstar players were opting out of participating even if they were voted in as starters by the fans.

Fearing the game becoming completely irrelevant, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig made the game’s results count – the winner of the game, American League or National League, would received home-field advantage in the World Series (meaning having the potential for hosting 4 of 7 potential games).

(I stand in the corner of thinking this is a silly idea, making an exhibition game’s results matter even if things go completely crazy. I won’t get into arguing my point here. Email me if you really want to discuss it.)

Also, let’s assume that “maintaining the status quo” isn’t a realistic option. Trying to do things the same as they’ve ever gone is the reason the game is being questioned in the first place. It would be one thing if the game was at least entertaining for the fans (that said, the TV ratings did well relative to other sports, as the NFL generally does) and worthwhile for the players (yes, contracts sometimes have bonus clauses for making the Pro Bowl).

So the last option is to discontinue the game. Hey, businesses close their doors, TV shows get canceled, players get released, incumbent candidates lose elections, and things simply change for better or worse. Instead of investing lots of money in travel, event coordination, marketing, and other silly stuff for a game that means next to nothing, maybe that money could be invested in something that matters more to the league and the players…like concussion testing.

And that’s really the point about using resources wisely – put your time, effort, money, and other resources in things that matter to the livelihood and existence of your organization. Just because it’s the way it’s always been done, that doesn’t mean it has to continue to be done that way. Change for the better. Kaizen. Don’t invest in things that don’t matter – that’s overproduction and unneeded inventory.

Hey, if it’s not worth doing well it shouldn’t be worth doing. After all, Jeff Saturday decided to play center for both sides in the Pro Bowl. If that doesn’t signify the importance of the Pro Bowl

Jeff Saturday Pro Bowl Manning

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3 Responses to “The NFL Pro Bowl and Focusing On Things That Matter”

  1. Mark Graban says:

    I don’t understand all of the fan and media outrage about the Pro Bowl. I haven’t paid much attention to it since I was a kid and I learned, in the mid 80s, that it’s a meaningless exhibition and pretty crappy football. It is what it is. Is there “value” to me from this game other than one or two ridiculous SportsCenter highlights? Nope.

    They’ll stop the game when it’s no longer viable in the TV contract.

    Maybe this is part of the somewhat sad trend of “hate watching TV” where people watch a show just to be snarky about it in social media. Whatever floats people’s boats. It’s a bit sad that people don’t have more fulfilling to do in their lives… (not referring to your blog post, Chad, but referring to all of the noise out there about this).

    I don’t blame players for not wanting to get hurt… I also don’t blame people for not wanting to watch.

    • Chad Walters says:

      Thanks Mark. With regard to “hate watching TV” have you seen reality television lately? 🙂

      I don’t have much outrage over the Pro Bowl, and the ratings indicate that it’s still financially viable. However, the rules change a little. Apparently teams aren’t allowed to blitz. One day there will be a career-ending injury in a meaningless exhibition like this and the Pro Bowl will go away…however, that becomes a reactive problem and not proactive.

      One example of that is Robert Edwards, a running back who tore knee ligaments playing sand football during Pro Bowl Week one year. He thought his career was over but miraculously returned for a couple more seasons down the line.

      Another example of a meaningless exhibition is Torii Hunter Jr. He broke his femur during one of the high school All-American game practices a couple months back and not only isn’t going to play baseball his senior year of HS but it also puts his first season of college football at ND (provided he signs) in jeopardy.

    • Chad Walters says:

      Apparently the quality of the game “improved” according to the Commish:

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