The NFL Pro Bowl: a collection of all of the biggest football stars in one place at one time.
Although it's become somewhat of a joke in sports communities recently (because no one takes it seriously), it is still worth it to see all of your favorites in one place!
Thanks to Walt Disney World, I was able to go to a few of the practice days for both the AFC and the NFC at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. They provided us with wristbands so that Scott and I both could access the sideline areas and get up close and personal with players. We snagged some selfies and autographs here and there, but no Colts players made their way to the sidelines while we were there.
These bands let us skip a lot of the lines/crowds and get a little time out of the sun. They also let us see a lot more of the Wide World of Sports Complex than we would've otherwise! This complex is also where the Atlanta Braves have spring training (at least for this season), so expect us to be back for a National's game in the near future!
The NFC and AFC teams have separate "practices" on 2 fields of the complex. Each group practiced for about an hour per day for three days leading up to the Pro Bowl itself. We snagged wristbands for the last day of "practices" on January 25.
You'll notice I've been putting "practices" in quotations. That's because these were far from any practice I would have pictured. For one game, the players don't learn complicated plays or focus too hard on team synergy. Instead, this practice involved a lot of stretching, light jogging, signing autographs, and playfully tossing the ball. It was more like a football scrimmage put together at a company potluck than an NFL practice. Honestly, this "practice" was far more entertaining than a regular old practice would be. The opportunity for face-to-face contact and the ability to see players goof-off in a less structured environment was actually highly entertaining. And compared to game day, they were a dream....
The game itself was uh... wet.
Yes, Florida is the sunshine state. No, there was not a shred of sunshine on game day.
In fact, it was one of the coldest days we've had so far this year with a high of 53 and game-time temps in the 40s. Plus it rained for a full 24 hours leading up to and after the game. Not just a light sprinkle, but a full on downpour throughout the entire day.
The schedule said that the pre-game festivities started at 2 and the game started at 3. Scott and I arrived around 1:30 just to be safe. We hadn't paid for parking in advance, which turned out to be a great decision. Permits that were selling for $125+ online were only $40 in person. A short hike to Camping World Stadium (formerly the Citrus Bowl), proved to us that wearing rainboots and raincoats was the right decision. On top of the freezing rain coming down, the grounds outside the stadium were flooded with 2+ inches of standing water stained neon orange by red baseball clay.
We arrived under the cover of the stadium and decided to scope out food before heading to our seats. After all, the only covered seats in the entire stadium are the suites. This meant that any time we were out watching the game, we would be in full rain with no cover. Did I mention the stadium doesn't allow umbrellas inside? For being in an area so prone to thunderstorms and hurricanes, it seems like it would've been a smart investment to put a roof on Camping World Stadium.
We waited in some (surprisingly short) lines before Scott opted to get a pulled pork sandwich and I got a basket of chicken tenders. We found both of them to be underwhelming and didn't finish them before heading out into the rain. Workers handed out "rally towels" intended to be swung above your heads, but everyone I saw was using them as a seat wipe or head cover.
We soaked through our first round of rally towels in the first quarter and asked for more before halftime to try to keep ourselves dry-ish. My jeans that started off light wash ended up looking black and were very, very heavy. I felt SO BAD for the Pro Bowl cheerleaders who had to continue to smile and dance in skimpy outfits as the rain kept pouring down around them. We ended up getting home to find that the rain had even soaked through our raincoats and the shirts underneath were sopping wet too. On the bright side, the AFC won 26-7.
In the end, the Pro Bowl was not worth it at all for us. Had it not been raining, it actually would have been really cool and very enjoyable. The lack of covered seating and tight security/bag policy made it very hard to stay dry or warm, nonetheless try to enjoy the game. In the future, I would happily attend another practice day or game-- as long as it's sunny and 72.
I put together a video of our experience at the practice days and linked that below. Because of the regulations about cameras and recording devices in Camping World Stadium (and the rain), I don't have any high quality footage from that day and decided to scrap that altogether. I hope you enjoyed this writeup and hopefully learned from my mistakes if you attend a Pro Bowl Practice Day or Game in the future! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to escape for a minute to fly south.