The NFL season actually starts when “Hard Knocks” premieres on HBO. Hearing the silky smooth sounds of Liev Schreiber laid over the titanic importance of the Bengals backup QB battle is the starter’s pistol for the league. Last night was the second episode chronicling the Bengals training camp, and boy was it fun. NFL Films is so professional that they could generate interest in watching grass grow, but the players and coaches gave them good character stories to chronicle this week.
The Fabulous Gruden Boys
In the Gruden family Jon is like the Coke and Jay the Pepsi. That isn’t a knock on Jay Gruden. Pepsi is a beloved beverage the world over, but would anyone really choose that over a cold Coke? Jay even sounds like Jon, but without the electricity. It took an ABC production meeting with Jon to explain the magic behind brother Jay. With Mike Tirico and others listening in rapture, John went on to tell a story about a race between the two brothers. Surprisingly Jon was a borderline obsessive player while his brother spent most of his time on the couch. Only when challenged to a foot race does Jay leave the couch to then beat and demoralize his louder and redder faced brother. Jon’s story was the most exciting moment Jay had on camera all show.
Hue Jackson– Reality TV Star
The man who traded a first round pick and more for Carson Palmer is making a new name for himself as reality TV gold. Every scene with Hue in it shines. He’s the Samuel L. Jackson of “Hard Knocks.” You just can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on screen. His best moment of this episode is when he warned rookie fullback Orson Charles about his slipping play.
“I’m not gonna bullshit you. You don’t run, you stomp your feet, you block the wrong people, you can’t play football.”
We are talking lines pulled from the never made “Any Given Sunday” sequel here with Hue.
Rookie defensive end Margus Hunt is not only from Estonia, but he hilariously hasn’t picked up English idioms. When a coach screams at him to not play “opossum” out there he makes the same look cabbies give when asked to drive to Brooklyn. Baseball at least provides translators for their foreign born players. Margus even makes the Ivan Drago reference for us during training drills. That is a guy who knows the American audience. I smell a hilarious Fox sitcom staring Will Sasso as Margus.
The Black Plastic Wedding Ring
Andy Dalton wears a plastic wedding ring on the field. He also encouraged his wife to become a pilates instructor. Next season he’s having the team hire his wife’s brother to coach the QBs and insisting the team increase the Greek yogurt budget. Dalton is being monitored more than Edward Snowden.
Bland White Rich People
I would like to defend white rich people for a moment. I know some of them, and believe me they aren’t all this boring. The conversation between Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan before an inter-team scrimmage was devoid of inflection. John Skelton is challenging for the backup QB position with the same energy I use to put together an IKEA dresser. Billionaire Falcons owner Arthur Blank just wants to talk golf. I promise not all white people are like this. Maybe 85% sure, but not all of us.
Marvin Lewis’ office
After the spacious office we saw Rex Ryan use on his season of Hard Knocks[ref]It had a balcony and an umbrella[/ref] the one used by Marvin Lewis is far more spartan. There seem to be no windows in the room, and the furniture reminds me of a place you go to open a checking account. The best part is the Bengal logos are incorporated into the chairs in the office that sit in front of his desk. Instead of looking sharp and custom, the overall effect is a muddled motel quality look. It looks like fabric a nursing home uses because it hides stains so well. The Bengals have a reputation for being one of the more frugal teams in the NFL, and the head coach’s office does nothing to dispute that.
Watch out for ants!
Only the Bengals end up hosting a team walkthrough on a field that is sodded for traveling fairs and revival tents. The field was solid red dirt with balding patches of grass. Sprinkled around the field were ant piles just for that local flavor. After that field I expected A.J. Green’s rehabilitation pool to be at the local YMCA during the over 55 water zumba class.
Marvin Lewis running
Marvin Lewis is a man who deserves our respect. He is a quality coach, and by all accounts a solid person. Just keep all that in mind when you see him run off the field. His gait was one deviation away from being included in the ministry of funny walks.
Welcome to the Georgia Dome
A big thumbs up to the Georgia Dome usher who greeted every Bengal player as they walked into the stadium. How nice is it that the Georgia Dome entrance operates exactly like a Wal-Mart.