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Reynolds Rap

Defenseless Against NFL's Lure

1/31/2011 5:26 PM

For those who scoff at the defense displayed by the Team Lidstrom 11,Team Staal 10 final score line in yesterday’s NHL All-Star Game, try this one on a for size: 13.4 million.

That’s how many tuned in to watch the NFL Pro Bowl on Fox Sunday, in which the NFC eked its way to a 42-0 lead in the second quarter before holding onto a 55-41 victory over the AFC.

Just goes to underline the power of the NFL in what is arguably the weakest of the four major team sport All-Star Games, where like its puck counterpart, hitting is very much optional, if not frowned upon.

Case in point: KC safety Eric Berry’s half-assed, missed tackle on St. Louis RB Steve Jackson’s 21-yard TD. Not sure if the on-field mics picked up the audio, but a more seasoned teammate must have admonished: “Hey rook, what doing?…Don’t wanna be in the trainer’s room and miss the post-game luau.” Berry dutifully backed off in mid-hit, and Jackson sauntered in for the score.

But even with this nonsensical, flag football affair, the NFL has us so hooked that Fox netted a 7.7 rating/12 share in the most-watched Pro Bowl since 1997, when ABC averaged 13.5 million viewers, and the highest-rated since an 8.6/15 for the 2000 game.

Compared to last year’s game, the 2011 Pro Bowl was ahead 8% in rating (7.7/12 versus 7.1/11) and 9% in viewership (13.4 million versus 12.3 million), over ESPN’s presentation of the 2010 exhibition, which faced much more formidable Nielsen competition in the way of the Grammys.  Nevertheless, the Jan. 30 telecast also improved 5% among persons 18 to 34 (4.1 versus 3.9), and by 34% among adults 25 to 54 (6.3 versus 4.7). The Pro Bowl gave Fox an easy win for the night with a 4.7 among persons 18 to 49., outscoring the combination of second- and third-place ABC (2.1/6) and CBS (1.9/5).

And with all this, NFL fans, sponsors, networks, players and owners are staring at a pro pigskin work stoppage come March 4. Seems that’s the only defense against America’s TV pastime.