By Dave Hyde Sun Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two words for anyone thinking today’s Pro Bowl is irrelevant, embarrassing or “stupid,” as Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian labeled the rule demanding his Super Bowl players attend in person, if not pads:
Here’s a guy in the spirit of this game. He gets it. In fact, since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell proclaimed this Pro Bowl a “success” four days before kickoff, let’s go ahead and proclaim the Minnesota tackle its Most Valuable Player right now.
Some Pro Bowl purists might quibble because McKinnie won’t, technically speaking, play Sunday. But such details stopped mattering long ago to legions of Pro Bowl fans.
This game sold out, after all, even though so many players declined invitations it’s down to eight-man football and Pat White is warming up as AFC quarterback.
McKinnie’s case is different, though. He embraced this invitation. It was his first Pro Bowl and he evidently was so taken by the honor that he celebrated it by, well, celebrating. And celebrating.
He missed four of the five NFC practices, a team meeting, the team photo, and last anyone heard from his Twitter account, was leaving South Beach, evidently for a North Dade strip club.
Man, that was such a fun sentence to write I need a cigarette.
“We don’t know where he is,” an NFL spokesman said Saturday afternoon. “All we know is he’s not playing the game. He’s dismissed from the team.”
Pro Bowl haters will use McKinnie to underline for the millionth time why this all-star game doesn’t work. But what he did was spotlight even more why Goodell was right for moving this game to South Florida.
Several Pro Bowl players no doubt have gotten lost while partying in Hawaii in previous years and probably even ended up on various islands. Rumor has it that two 1978 Los Angeles Rams still haven’t surfaced. But who noticed?
Yet this Pro Bowl is so big and so popular that McKinnie’s absence was noticed immediately by jealous teammates, reporters and coaches.
Two players really must be angry. Philadelphia’s Jason Peters and New York Giant David Diehl are the lone tackles remaining on the NFC squad. They’ll have to play the whole meaningless game now, unless another Dolphin can be subbed in.
McKinnie even rubbed it in by leaving a trail of tweets between missed practices, like a modern-day Hansel and Gretel. Here’s a sampling as he hit the W Hotel and South Beach hotspots Mansion and The Clevelander.
Thursday at 5:50 p.m.:” I’m in the car heading 2 The W for this fashion show. Gotta pick up my homie real quick.”
Thursday at 10:06 p.m. “If u coming 2 Mansion 2nite u better hurry! Getting packed!
Friday night about 7 p.m.: “Waiting on Tashi 2 get ready! About 2 head 2 the clevelander 4 a bbq!
Friday about midnight: “Leaving the beach headed 2 KOD’s”
“KOD” is assumed to be the strip club King of Diamonds, though a Google search comes up with 103 million other possibilities, including the Nova Scotia hamburger chain King of Donair, the movie Kiss of Death and rapper K.O.D.
Unfortunately, that’s the last tweet McKinnie put out before missing Saturday morning’s NFC practice and being dismissed from the team. Talk about the punishment not equaling the crime. If they really wanted to punish McKinnie, shouldn’t they have made him play?
TV could have put a “South Beach cam” on him to see if there were any aftereffects of his partying.
No doubt this is going to draw the same, tired criticism in some circles that McKinnie was “unfocused” and Pro Bowl players don’t “take the game seriously.” Are you kidding? McKinnie is guilty only of celebrating his invitation too hard.
In Hawaii, a Pro Bowl MVP was voted on at the end of a game no one watched. But this is a new Pro Bowl era, in a new spot, we should do this right.
Give McKinnie the MVP right now.
If anyone can find him.