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the intersection of sports and stories

i read a headline, and subsequently part of an article, about the NFLs pro-bowl issue
same problem every year
neither players nor fans care about the pro-bowl
and i started to wonder why
then i started to compare it to movies, and stories in a larger sense

whats preventing the pro-bowl from being something people care about?
is it the lowered level of intensity reserved for this one game? maybe
is it that audiences collectively snap to in january and realize football is silly? maybe
but one thing is certain
the game lacks drama because it does not matter to anyone (players or fans) who wins or loses and why

its just a game
but wasnt it just a game when team x played team y in week 12 of the regular season?
wasnt it always...just a game?
and if people get excited for star players, why dont they tune in when the star players are all together?
regardless of the change in intensity to decrease injury risk,
what changes from regular season games to the pro-bowl?

the story, the drama

in the pro-bowl players are no longer telling themselves a story about what it means to win this game like they do in the regular season, so the fans dont either
the fans aren't even watching the game for the spectacle of who gets hurt and how that injury affects the team and the rest of the season - another story unto itself
no one cares
the pro-bowl is broken

so how do you fix it? 

simple
infuse drama

its the reason people watch sports in the first place
is the story unfolding of who will prevail
the irrational buy-in of fans believing their team is the good guy and the other guy is bad
sports are all about stories
stories are built on characters, drama, themes
our culture, human and american, is built on drama, stories
and we feed into it every day in the way we consume media and interact online
something has to be at stake
pride, ideals, fundamental rights, community, financial gain, life, etc

these are the stories we hear in media, movies, books and tell ourselves every day
these are the things we use to motivate ourselves

im better than that guy
im righter than she is
this is something to which im entitled because im human so ill fight for it
ill lose friends if i dont do this
i could make a lot of money
i could lose my life

sports does an incredible job at tapping into some of these basic human cultural stories
not because sports tells the story but because we tell the stories
then we do the craziest thing: we believe them (so long as they suit us)

and thats the fix

what if instead of having the biggest stars in football reluctantly play two-hand touch, the pro-bowl had real drama?

maybe its staggeringly massive cash incentives for the winner and loser goes home with nothing? (americas been tuning in to that for years with game shows on television)

maybe if instead of the best players, its not the best players, but less talented guys with heart playing for massive life changing amounts of money? (reality tv)

maybe its player manufactured beef centered around principles or fundamental rights being infringed? (get players who truly publicly hate each other and people will watch)

maybe the loser gets executed? (i'm not advocating this. im just making a crazy inhumane example of good drama)

you get the picture

drama
story
its what the best movies and games get so right
and the worst movies and the pro-bowl get so wrong

change the story, change the game 

Abraham Felix