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Pro Bowl Fun For The Fans, Too

Posted Jan 22, 2014

HONOLULU -- They are here in excited droves, wearing their favorite teams' jerseys and hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars of the game as the NFL's Pro Bowl takes a new turn ...

As far as games go, the Pro Bowl is one that breaks barely a sweat. We know it. You know it. The players know it. It's an all-star exhibition that achieves its goal, and that goal is to have fun, to engage the fans in Hawaii and to provide a reward to the players voted into the game.

Four Eagles are here -- running back LeSean McCoy, quarterback Nick Foles, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and offensive guard Evan Mathis. They're involved in community events, fan relationship opportunities and, of course, preparing for Sunday's game. The practices are light and the spirits are high.

Nobody is pretending that the Pro Bowl is a match for a regular-season NFL game. But it is still remarkably popular, and last year's game drew a 7.1 rating on NBC, equating to 12.2 million viewers. That's a higher number than any all-star game, and another nugget of proof that the NFL is, indeed, America's game.

The players are drifting into Honolulu throughout the day and practices open on Thursday. Mostly, though, the fans are here. And that's where I want to begin.

Fans in Hawaii

Two minutes into my arrival in Honolulu, as I walked to pick up my luggage, Cpl Robert Porterfield of the U.S. Army came running up to me. He's a huge Eagles fan from South Carolina, and he couldn't have been more thrilled to say hello.

"Dave, I watch Eagles Live! all the time. I can't believe I have a chance to say hello to you," said Cpl Porterfield. "It's an honor."

No, Robert, it's my honor. It's our honor, as Eagles, to meet the fans. The fans make the game. The fans fuel the league. The fans are what this job is all about, and for people like me, there is complete understanding that without the fans, there is no spot on the team.

I'm looking forward to meeting as many Eagles fans as possible this week, as I do every week when we're on the road or when we have a home game and the fans fill the parking lots in South Philadelphia hours before kickoff and continue their tradition of tailgating and partying. It's a quiet time in those snow-covered parking lots now, and everyone anticipates September and the 2014 season and what that season means for the Eagles.

For now, though, we have a respite from the NFL playoffs this weekend with the Pro Bowl, and why not check out Foles and see him on the field among the best of the best in the league? It's a great opportunity for him to grow his career and extend friendships and maybe pick up a tip or two when he sits down and talks to, say, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

My mission here is to get inside the experience the players are having. We're going to put microphones on them at practice. We're going to have interviews. We're going to see just how much we can share the Pro Bowl times they are having.

And we're going to share them with you, the fans. The game itself doesn't count in the standings, but it means something for the players here. Foles and Mathis make their first appearances in the "new" Pro Bowl, which no longer pits the NFC against the AFC. By mixing up the rosters, the league hopes the interest in the game is increased, so we will see how Sunday fares in the TV ratings department.

Understand, though, that the fans are going to watch. Fans always watch the best game in the world. The NFL is here, in spectacular Honolulu, and the fans are here as well. The fans are the backbone, there every single day, loving a game that loves them back.

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