Pro Bowl Remains Good Investment

UH linebackers Lance Williams (left) and Benetton Fonua in a drill last week. Craig Kojima/Star-Advertiser photo

UH linebackers Lance Williams (left) and Benetton Fonua in a drill last week. Craig Kojima/Star-Advertiser photo

The announcement last week that the Pro Bowl will skip Hawaii in 2015 and return for 2016 has sparked renewed debate about the value of the game for Hawaii.

Some believe the Pro Bowl is a must-have for the state, almost regardless of cost. Others don’t understand why Hawaii’s longstanding relationship (33 years and counting) with the NFL hasn’t bought the state sufficient goodwill to avoid constant renegotiation to hold the annual All-Star game here.

The second part is most easily answered: The NFL is the most successful sports league in the world, and it seeks to improve its position constantly with all of its vendors, sponsors and media partners. In other words, it’s not personal; it’s good business. As for the price tag, which will be $5 million for the 2015 game, it’s difficult to quantify how much the game is actually worth. It does eat a huge percentage of Hawaii Tourism Authority’s annual budget, and it claims it leads to $71.9 million in direct visitor spending. How much of that is additional spending is hard to quantify, because if Pro Bowl visitors weren’t here, other would be coming and spending.

What is even harder to quantify is the value of the three-hour national television postcard from the Islands to the rest of the nation and other parts of the world. I can remember as a young man watching the Hula Bowl on TV from my freezing New York home. It’s quite possible that without that, I might not have ever begun the process of moving here. How many tens of thousands of people have seen the Pro Bowl and were spurred to call travel agents for vacations, to open businesses and even to want to relocate here?

And as the NFL and its TV partners do an amazing job of portraying our island paradise in a beautiful light, I don’t take spending $5 million lightly, but I do believe it’s worth the investment. And maybe after seeing players decide that their sprained pinky keeps them from participating in the 2015 Pro Bowl in Arizona, the NFL will decide that the 30-year marriage with Hawaii is far more desirable than brief affairs with other venues.

* UH spring football practice is about halfway finished, and it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about fresh faces and renewed commitments.

One position unlikely to be resolved in terms of a starter this spring is quarterback. Ikaika Woolsey has taken the first reps for the most part, but Taylor Graham and Jeremy Higgins each have received an almost equal number of snaps. Each of them has virtues; all have areas in which they can improve. And transfer Beau Reilly comes in for fall camp, which may complicate the situation further. No matter who the signal caller is, he will benefit if the offensive line takes a leap forward, Joey Iosefa stays healthy, and a mostly young receiver corps continues to develop.

The upcoming schedule will be a challenge, and the fan base is expecting large improvements. A wise man once said, “There is no substitute for pressure.”

Make no mistake about the 2014 football season. The pressure is on.