According to Merriam-Webster, an all-star team is “composed wholly or chiefly of stars or of outstanding performers or participants.” While this definition stands theoretically true, it is by no means true in most of the sports world.
On Sunday, the NFL and NHL supposedly showcased the best their respective games had to offer. Both the NFL’s Pro Bowl in Honolulu and the NHL’s All-Star Game in Nashville were well-attended, but the product put out by the two leagues could have been of drastically higher quality.
Let’s start with John Scott and the NHL All-Star Game. When a fan vote is in place, things like this can happen. Entering the weekend, Scott was a minor league player in the American Hockey League, who had appeared in 285 NHL games, netting five goals and registering six assists in eight seasons. Scott is not an all-star in any universe. The fact that he scored two goals, was named the All-Star MVP and received the keys to a brand new car does not make a difference.
If the NHL was truly putting on an All-Star Game, two of the league’s best players, Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews, would have recognized the value of attending. Instead, the two chose to withdraw from the game and face a one game regular season suspension to rest and prepare for the second half of the season.
Flipping to the Pro Bowl, similar points can be made. How many of the eligible, selected players actually showed up to participate? A record 133 players received Pro Bowl honors this year on account of replacements. That’s quite the extensive roster.
Notables who did not participate included Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall. While some were legitimately injured, others simply looked for a reason not to attend the Pro Bowl because they did not see the value in it.
To be honest, who would blame them in light of this year’s Pro Bowl rules? Aside from a two-minute warning in each quarter and limited permitted defensive formations, possession changed at the conclusion of each quarter in a further attempt to highlight offense.
I don’t have a problem with these special features and changes to traditional game play, but by all means do not call such an event an All-Star Game. The Pro Bowl is not an All-Star Game. The NHL All-Star Game simply entertains fans. The NBA All-Star Game is just an exhibition.
The only true all-star game in the four major professional sports leagues is in baseball. Considering that the MLB All-Star Game actually means something in determining home field advantage in the World Series, this should not come as a surprise.
Don’t count on anything changing outside of the MLB anytime soon, but perhaps the definition of an all-star will begin to ring truer in some of these events in the future.