Let's be honest: The Pro Bowl is kind of terrible.
Oh, for sure, it's nice to have one more game of football as the season nears the end. And there is a certain bragging right in having more players from your team there than from your rival.
But at the end of the day, the football is just... not very good. Everyone is more (rightly) focused on avoiding injuries then making big plays, players cycle in and out frequently, and the whole thing has a first-game-of-the-preseason vibe to it.
So if you're looking for a reason to check in on Sunday's game, here's a potential option: The game will feature the first-ever F-35 joint strike fighter flyover of a sporting event.
Four F-35A conventional take off and landing models, based at Luke AFB, will fly over the University of Phoenix Stadium around 6 PM local time to kick off the game. Chances are it will coincide with the national anthem, as these flyovers tend to do.
For aviation watchers, it will be a rare chance to see the F-35 flying in front of a crowd. For the service, it could be a chance to show that their oft-criticized jet is actually flying as it inches closer to going operational.
(Insert joke about how no one will be watching the Pro Bowl so the F-35 will be extra stealthy here.)
As for football fans, well... we can't really help you there. The game will probably still be terrible. But if you want to blend your interest in sports and the defense industry, keep an eye on the Super Bowl, where Seattle and New England will match up. Major sponsors for each team include Seattle-based Boeing and Boston-area Raytheon.
UPDATE FROM GAME DAY:
Or not. Despite some pre-game hype from Air Force social media accounts and an announcement on the field that the flyover was being conducted, the cameras failed to look up and capture any footage of the F-35s in action.
It's not really a big deal, but those associated with the program must feel they missed an opportunity for the F-35 to make some noise.
A couple of pre-flyover tweets:
And as proof the flyover did actually happen:
One thing going as expected? About three plays into Pro Bowl, several defenders pretended to tackle Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, he stopped running, and the whistle wasn't blown dead as fans booed the players. So at least our prediction on the quality of the game was spot on.
And here is official US Air Force video of the flyover:
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.