When the pro football season ends for fans across the country at the end of Sunday's Pro Bowl, it will also mark the end of a week in the sun for the players.
The NFC and AFC stars meet in the annual All-Star Game, but they haven't exactly sequestered themselves to build intensity. Players must first introduce themselves to their new teammates and the best way to do that is on the golf course, during autograph sessions, hospital visits, dinners, and parties."What time is the game Sunday?" asked Houston Oilers defensive end Ray Childress. "Three o'clock? I would say about 2:30 p.m. is a good time to think about the game.
"Seriously, nobody is going to grade the game films or the games and even though it's important to go out and have a good showing and play on a good level, I don't think a lot of work is the point," said Childress.
Still, when the game begins, competitiveness should surface.
"We, the NFC, lost the last two to the AFC, so (NFC and Chicago Bears coach) Mike Ditka told us we're going to change things around and hopefully get things together Sunday," said New Orleans Saints wide receiver Eric Martin. "We're not going out there to try to hurt or kill anybody, but we want to change the tune where the NFC can get back on the winning track."
To do that, starting quarterback Randall Cunningham of Philadelphia must move the offense. In each of the last two years the NFC has scored six points, losing 10-6 in 1987 and 15-6 in 1988.
It will be up to starting quarterback Warren Moon of Houston to spark the AFC offense so it match can earlier performances when it scored 24 points (1986), 22 (1985), and 27 points (1980).
Most Pro Bowls have been close, with the winning margin being less than two touchdowns in seven of the nine games. The only time it exceeded that was in 1981 when the NFC won 21-7 and in 1984 when the NFC blitzed the AFC 45-3.
While the focus for the fans is on the game and players, in Hawaii the focus is money and positive image for the NFL. The league cooperated with Hawaii's Department of Business and Economic Development to produce a report showing that the 1988 Pro Bowl generated between $20-$25 million in added sale to the Hawaii economy.
The league's contract with Honolulu to host the annual all-star bash has only one more year to run, but other cities need not line up to make a bid for the game.
"A new agreement could have been made this week, but (Commissioner) Pete Rozelle is not here to make it," said NFL director of administration Joe Rhein.
Rozelle, the NFL commissioner since 1960, will miss the Pro Bowl due to a death in his family.
Injuries have prevented Cincinnati quarterback Boomer Esiason from attending, and his replacement Jim Kelly of Buffalo has been sidelined by tendinitis in his shoulder. Super Bowl MVP Jerry Rice of San Franciso will not play because of a sore ankle, knee surgery has benched Atlanta's Bill Fralic, and Cincinnati's Tim Krumrie broke a leg in the Super Bowl.