In the words of Smash Mouth “Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play.” For anyone who has made the NHL, the NBA, the NFL, the MLB, or any other major sports league, the argument can be made that they are already an all-star. They made it ahead of the thousands, if not millions of people, who play that sport. But as distinct as all the professional leagues are, they all share one hugely controversial aspect: the All-Star weekend.
With the Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star festivities having just wrapped up, so have the annual talks about what exactly the value of the “break” is.
All-Star critics come at it from many different angles. They’re either an unnecessary injury risk, a wasted opportunity to give everyone a break, or a myriad of other negatives.
Additionally, the numbers don’t lie. Over the past years, TV ratings across the major league’s All-Star airings have seen a steady decline. This suggests that the critics aren’t always the ones on TV, but perhaps some lie in the audience as well.
But for all the people on both sides of the screen that are against the very concept of having a full weekend of best-on-best action, there are just as many, if not more, who love every minute of it.
In many cases, people dedicate their lives to these leagues, these teams, and these players. While that may sound crazy, for some people, sport is a religious experience. It can be hard to liken the passion felt for watching grown men chase a ball to anything else. Therefore outsiders do often struggle to wrap their head around why this whole thing is controversial in the first place.
But think of it this way: everyone has a favourite genre of music and a favourite band. While you may not love all bands under the genre, as a fan of the music, you can appreciate talent. Now imagine not only the lead from your favourite band, but the amazing talents of all the other bands got together to put on a huge concert of the greatest hits.
Sounds like a dream come true, right? That’s the all-star scenario. Except with pro-sports, add the potential for season ending injury which causes harm to not only the player, but the beloved teams.
Many leagues, like the NHL, hold their All-Star activities halfway through their respective seasons. This setup allows the players to have a break, but still leaves room for the fear that we will see someone’s season come to an end.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the NFL, who host their best-on-best game the week before the culmination of the whole league. Their format eliminates an additional break from the game calendar, but it also eliminates the risk of threatening injury. The little asterisk that comes with this is the fact that some of the best players are unable to participate in the Pro Bowl as they prepare for the Super Bowl, which is played a week later.
Regardless of when the best face the best, and no matter who feels what about the fact that they even have the opportunity, the controversial weekend will stay in the pro-sports calendar at least until Smash Mouth can come up with a better reason for why they shouldn’t.
Originally Published in Bandersnatch Vol. 48 Issue 07 on January 30th, 2018