JR 240 Assignment No. 3 Opinion Column: RANKING THE CALIBER OF THE BEST ALL-STAR GAMES IN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

By Annie Jenkins

It’s the “Midsummer Classic.”

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is the only professional sports all-star game that matters. Call me a biased baseball fan, but I like that the result determines NL/AL home-field advantage in the upcoming World Series.

This additional incentive for victory practice became permanent after 2003. It ensures that while it’s a fun fan fest and honor for the league’s best players, they take the game more seriously as a collective effort because it could help later in October.

Venue and features

The game is held usually the second or third Tuesday in July, near the midway point in the season. Since its inauguration in 1933, all but two of the 30 MLB franchises have hosted the event. By sharing the wealth, cities with new ballparks or ones that have not hosted a game in a long time usually are chosen by the MLB selection committee. Each ballpark is unique, so it provides a special feel to the game.

The Home Run Derby, All-Star Futures Game, Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game and the ESPYs all help create a week of tradition. Nothing beats baseball on a warm summer night.

How the players are selected

  • The fan votes select the starting position players.
  • Players vote for eight pitchers and a backup player for each position.
  • The ASG managers fill their rosters with 33 players. At this point, it’s ensured every team is represented by at least one player. [Nice to see representation across the league.]
  • Final vote (1 player for each ASG roster): Fans vote online for one additional player, chosen from a list of five players compiled by the manager of each league’s team and the Commissioner’s Office.

Criticism

Fan voting is criticized because most starting players come from teams that have large fan bases, such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Why it takes the cake

MLB’s game held in the middle of the summer is the only focus of the sports world for a three-day period. These are the only days on the calendar guaranteed not to have any contests in the four major sports, so more people are watching.

Take a look at the TV ratings.

2. National Basketball Association All-Star Game

NBA All-Star Weekend usually occurs in February, with a Sunday night exhibition game (since 1951) pairing the Eastern Conference star players with their Western Conference opponents. In the days leading up the main event, there are various skills competitions, like the Dunk and Three-Point Contest that generate a lot of hype.

How the players are selected

  •  Fans select three front court players and two guards from each conference for the starting lineup.
  • Bench players are chosen by a vote among the head coaches from each squad’s respective conference. Coaches cannot vote for their own players.

How the game is played

While the game is played under normal NBA rules, these games typically involve players attempting crazy dunks and throwing up some alley oops. Defense may win championships, but in this game, it’s usually very limited, so the final score is often much higher than a regular NBA contest.

Criticism

The NBA format is great, but it comes in No. 2 on my list because the game doesn’t have an impact on the season like the MLB.

3. The National Hockey League All-Star Game

The NHL All-Star Weekend is an exhibition ice hockey game and skills competition in January that’s traditionally held at the regular season midway point. The game’s proceeds benefit the players’ pension fund.

How the players are selected

In 2010, the NHL opted for a fantasy sports draft model instead of the conference vs. conference approach used in MLB and NBA.

  • Appointed All-Star captains draft from a pool of players put together by fan ballots and efforts of the NHL Hockey Operations Department to determine the rosters for each team.

Experiencing and embracing change

From 1947 to 1968, the All-Star Game primarily saw the previous season’s Stanley Cup champions take on a team of All-Stars from the other clubs. I like the idea of taking last year’s champs and making them play against a squad of some of the league’s best players. Is your team truly the best, or was it just a Cinderella season?

Critique

The NHL is No. 3 on my list is because it is fan-friendly, shows off the league’s best players and the proceeds benefits the players. But, I don’t like the idea of the current player draft, so maybe I’m just too traditional. Again, this game doesn’t mean anything.

4. The National Football League “Pro Bowl” 

This all-star game became the AFC–NFC Pro Bowl in 1970, matching the top players in the each conference head-to-head.

In 2014, big changes were made and teams were chosen by two team captains (honorary captains in the Hall of Fame) in a televised draft event.

Date/Venue

The Pro Bowl was historically held in Hawaii after the end of the NFL season. However, starting in 2010, the Pro Bowl moved from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl and was in Arizona in 2015. Due to fear of injury, Super Bowl players cannot play. Many star players decide not to attend, meaning the very best players are not necessarily featured.

How the players are selected

Prior to 1995, only coaches and players made Pro Bowl selections, but now fans vote online.

  • Each group’s ballot counts for one-third of the votes.

MAJOR CRITICISM

The Pro Bowl receives criticism for being more about show rather than a real football game.

In 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to cancel the game if players didn’t play more competitively the next year.

It’s hard for the NFL to generate interest in the Pro Bowl. With fewer games in a season and higher chance of injury than other sports, it’s not feasible to have a middle of the season all-star game. The Super Bowl venue is selected years in advance, so there’s no way to provide home-field advantage to the winner like the MLB All-Star Game.

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