The finest assemblage of NFL practice-squad talent convenes Sunday at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium for that venerable pastime known as the Pro Bowl.
In related news, spokesmen for Jack Thompson, Jack Trudeau and Jack Lord's estate have indicated none are available to fill out Sunday's depleted rosters.
A record number of invitees are declining to participate in Sunday's game, which says all you need to know about the all-star game's significance. Few sporting events on the annual calendar represent must-flee TV like the Pro Bowl, where the Bucs' Jameis Winston recently became the eighth quarterback to be invited or announced, and the Bengals' Adam Jones was tabbed as the seventh alternate at cornerback.
What can be more irrelevant than that? Well, we gave it some thought and uncovered a few other contenders for most insignificant annual sporting event.
NBA slam dunk contest
Frankly, this event went out with grunge. When the dudes known on a first-name basis — Michael, Dominique, Spud — were defying gravity in the dunk contest, it often upstaged the NBA All-Star Game held the same weekend. Now, the first and last names of most participants are unfamiliar to the casual fan. Some recent winners: Zach LaVine, Terrence Ross, Jeremy Evans. And let's face it, one can only get so creative with a dunk after a while.
NIT postseason tournament
Arguably the quintessential consolation prize in all of sports. Granted, if your program has foundered in recent years (e.g. USF) and is grasping for any postseason plum it can reach, a berth in the NIT — or its pesky younger cousin, the CIT — represents a stride back toward respectability. But if you were an NCAA bubble team that had its hopes deflated on Selection Sunday, how fired up can you really get to go play a second-fiddle tournament game in some outpost such as Knoxville or Lubbock?
Final NFL preseason games
If you were documenting everything wrong with the NFL, this game might crack your top three. The starters barely play (if at all), the weather's still stifling, the outcome counts for nothing — and the NFL still charges full price for a ticket! On the bright side, by the time the final preseason week rolls around, there's typically something more worthwhile to watch, such as college football openers. Or Dance Moms.
High school all-star games
We're lumping virtually all the big ones — U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Under Armour All-America Game, McDonald's All-American Game (basketball) — into the irrelevant hamper. Those familiar with the modern recruiting calendar know these games aren't staged to give blue-chip recruits a chance to impress Division I-A scouts. Most already have verbally committed to — or in basketball's case, signed with — colleges. To the contrary, the game often literally serves as a backdrop while select participants who haven't previously revealed their college choice announce their decision before a TV audience presumably watching with bated breath. And aren't we all the better for it?
Barbasol Championship, PGA Tour
This second-year tour event might rank as the best tournament no one sees, if only because it's staged the same weekend as the British Open. We get the reason for it (not everyone can play in the British, and the winner does get a two-year tour exemption), just don't expect anyone to watch.
Spring football games
Some insist these glorified intrasquad contests serve as a great assessment tool for coaches, but we generally don't even agree with that. Unless it's first-team defense vs. first-team offense, you're not really getting a gauge of how a kid can perform against a bona fide starting unit. Additionally, the college landscape is saturated with kids who shined in the spring and vanished in the fall. But at many places, thousands upon thousands will come out to watch.
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]tampabay.com.