In all four major American sports, professional athletes that mesmerize our imagination, take a break from their regular season action to display their skills in their respective all-star games. We have just finished watching the NBA All-Star weekend festivities, and it continues the debates around these type of games. For this particular article we will focus on the all-star games and their surrounding events as a whole, and in comparison to each other. Each sport will be ranked 1-4, counting down from worst to best.
4. The NFL Pro Bowl
This spot was carved out perfectly for the Pro Bowl. It is a terrible football game surrounded by make-shift activities, that seem to be getting further and further away from actual football. The game itself is filled with subpar efforts by both teams, more worried about going into the offseason healthy, than competing in a football game. The game does not feature much of anything positive, failing to get the hype of anything close to an actual football game. The NFL introduced their new skills competition this year, but it was no more than a slight distraction from how poor this week is executed. The skills competition included precision passing, drone drop, power relay, and a best hands competition. The competitions provided both excitement and controversy, but almost seem artificial. This might be because Phillip Rivers, who finished the season with a 60.4% completion percentage, won the precision passing contest. The NFL’s Pro Bowl might be better if it disintegrates into just a week before the Super Bowl, potentially even free of football.
3. The NBA All-Star Game
The NBA All-Star Game has its years. The years where there is a shoot off in the three point competition, the years where the dunk contest makes us all wish we had that type of bounce, and the years where the game actually features a little bit of defense. The problem with the NBA’s All-Star events, is the lack of consistency. Last year, we saw Aaron Gordon and Zach Levine go head to head in the dunk contest, yet a made dunk seemed to be like an accomplishment this year. The defense, or lack thereof, made James Naismith roll in his grave. At the minimum, the NBA All-Star game is a step-up from the NFL’s Pro Bowl, and even gives us a weekend of extremely entertaining basketball, in some years. However, besides the drama surrounding Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, this year is an example of how bland the game and events can really be.
2. The NHL All-Star Game
The NHL All-Star Game is unique in itself. It is the only game, or actually games, to feature a tournament style format. It provides for some heightened competition, but the games still are missing defense. Similar to the Pro Bowl, hockey, an aggressive, contact sport, has players attempting to stay healthy as much as win the game. This year featured two teams reaching double digits in the three games played. While the games may not be perfect, the format provides for a good deal of excitement between the NHL’s Divisions. Besides the games themselves, the skills challenge is on display during NHL’s All-Star weekend. It features five events, including The Skills Challenge Relay, the Four Line Challenge, shooting accuracy, fastest skater, hardest shot and a shootout. The events are entertaining, but do not blow you away. This year, we got a nice display of young vs old, with Connor McDavid winning the fastest skater competition and Sydney Crosby winning the shooting accuracy event. The NHL All-Star weekend has the potential to create some memorable moments, yet lacks the signature event like our next sport.
- MLB All-Star Game
The MLB All-Star Game might even be overshadowed by one of its alternative events, but that only seems to add to the significance of the week. The home run derby plates baseball’s best power hitters against each other, with the opportunity to attempt and smash as many balls as they can out of the park. The Home Run Derby may be the only alternative all-star event that provides year in and year out excitement to the many fans that tune in. As the saying goes, “chicks love the long ball”. That is effectively the significance of the Home Run Derby. The MLB’s All-Star Game festivities also includes an All-Star Futures Game and an All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game. The Futures Game attracts dedicated baseball fans, while the celebrity game provides just a handful of Twitter worthy moments. The game itself is rather realistic to an actual baseball game, with recent scores remaining in respectable fashion. Maybe the best part of the game is getting the opportunity to watch bests of one division go up against bests of the opposing division. While inter-league play provides limited opportunities, the MLB All-Star Game is the only all-star game that really pits the best individuals in head-to-head battles. Finally, this game is played relatively hard by both teams. While a pitcher might grove an occasional fastball, or a player may not stretch the borderline single into a double, each team is fighting for their division’s home field advantage.
If other sports could somehow emulate the MLB’s All-Star week, each sport’s break from their regular season action could be as interesting as a playoff game.