As 2010 Pro Bowl players descended on South Florida for practices, community events and other obligations, debate continued to rage about as much as the rosters changed.
At an NFL Players Association event at Carol City Elementary in Miami Gardens, where players encouraged kids to eat well and keep active and provided a $5,000 check for the school’s budding vegetable garden, union representatives put on their best face, but didn’t hide their frustration.
“It’s great for South Florida, great for the Miami area. It brings more programs, things like this where players can get involved,” NFL PA President Kevin Mawae said Wednesday. “It’s going to be good for the community and the players that are here are happy to be a part of it.”
But Mawae, who plays center for the Tennessee Titans and is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, also ticked off a number of reasons players are concerned. He says the union should have had more of a role in the decision.
“We really wish we had a bigger say so. I think it’s something we could have given a little more insight to,” Mawae said. “Part of the lure of the Pro Bowl is going to Hawaii as well. So it’s kind of a mixed bag of feelings there.”
Meanwhile, Mawae and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith aren’t pleased about the requirement that selected players who are in the Super Bowl can’t play in the Pro Bowl, but still must attend the game to get their Pro Bowl pay.
“A whole lot of obligations without a whole lot of input. I also think that’s not lost on our fans,” Smith said. “I talked to a person who was fortunate enough to make it to the Pro Bowl again this year, and he said, ‘you know De, it’s great and it’s still an honor, but there was something about knowing the Pro Bowl was after the Super Bowl, knowing it was a game about the players, knowing it was an honor to be selected to play a game that’s always been traditionally in this spot. And to not have it this year, It feels a little bit less’.”
The NFL says the union was involved in the discussions for years before the decision to move the game’s time and place was announced in December 2008. Smith wasn’t named union executive director until March – after the Pro Bowl decision was announced.
The move before the Super Bowl is also controversial.
“There are fans, once the Super Bowl is over, they lose interest,” Mawae said. “So I understand that aspect of it, but then it cheats guys out of the opportunity to play in the All-Star game, like the 14 guys from the Colts and the Saints. Again, you’ve got to decide which one’s more important, the players’ feelings versus, at the end of the day, the financial aspect of Pro Bowl.”
The Pro Bowl returns to Hawaii in 2011 and 2012. After that, it could rotate.
“We’ll see. We’re testing it out this year,” Mawae said.
Negotiations for a new labor contract continue to get interesting. (More on this in future posts).
+ Meanwhile, as workers continue their Pro Bowl and Super Bowl preparations across South Florida, experts are still debating the merits of a Colts-Saints Super Bowl matchup, compared to what could have been, had the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings advanced.
Tickets on the secondary market are averaging about $2,600, whereas a Jets Super Bowl would have started at $2,500, experts predicted.
“It’s not good for tourism in South Florida. If the Jets and the Vikings had gotten in, you’d have more people flying in and more of a corporate fan base,” Robert Tuchman, executive vice president of Premier Global Sports, told my colleague Doreen Hemlock. “With New Orleans, you’ll have more people driving in, and you don’t have that corporate fan base. Some will drive in on Saturday. They won’t spend as much as New Yorkers would.”
With the Colts just in the Super Bowl in South Florida in 2007, Tuchman, whose company arranges corporate and group travel to sporting events, said, “Some have already paid for that once in a lifetime experience at the Super Bowl.”
Tuchman estimates the losses to businesses at 30 percent to 40 percent. The difference, he said, “is millions and millions of dollars for South Florida. There will be less hotel rooms, restaurant reservations and golf reservations. It’s not a great matchup.”
But that’s not to suggest South Florida won’t be putting on a big show during the next 10 days. The Pro Bowl is officially sold out at 70,500 seats, although a few club and single seats remain for sale.
Tuchman, after all, is a big fan of the region. In his book, The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live, he ranks Miami as No. 1 in his list of top 10 cities for hosting a major sporting event.
+ Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams are skipping the Feb. 6-7 Fed Cup because they say they have roles with the Super Bowl as part owners of the Miami Dolphins. A Dolphins spokesman said there is no formal obligation for the Williams sisters to attend any Super Bowl activities. There’s an owners meeting the day before the Super Bowl, but owners with tiny percentages aren’t in the room for those. Venus is, however, hosting a party at the W South Beach on Feb. 5 to launch the new laundry detergent Tide plus Febreze Freshness Sport.