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I can’t go on about how much I love HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series. It wouldn’t even matter if they were even airing another season of “Hard Knocks” w the Jets, (the NFL’s US Weekly team) or even the awful Oakland Raiders (sorry Raiders fans, but it’s going to be a LONG season) but if this show doesn’t get you souped up for football, then I don’t know what can. The folks at HBO created a gold mine when they started this partnership with the NFL. “Hard Knocks” is the closest seat the everyday person can get to being an actual part of a NFL training camp and being a part of a NFL organization.

This year’s Emmy contender is the Cincinnati Bengals. This is the Bengals second go round on the HBO series. They return to the road with a better product for the field than they had in 2009. However then they did have “Must Turn Off TV,” Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson. Mike Brown, long time owner, and known as one of the stingiest and cheapest owners in the game, must be doing everything he can to get his team in the good graces of the American public by agreeing to be paparazied on the highest level again. How better to do that? Give your team a tell all expose on life with the Bengals. Who better to create Masterpiece Theatre than HBO. “Hard Knocks” definitely brings more suspense than an episode of “John from Cincinnati,” even if it features the orange and black stripes. The Bengals have been on the cusp for the past two years. Under the Marvin Lewis era, the team has been successful. Lewis is the second longest tenured coach in the NFL, next to Bill Belicheck. The team has made the playoffs for the past two seasons but with former TCU standout, Andy Dalton, under center, they have failed to win a playoff game. They have an emerging star on the outside with AJ Green, (who gets injured in the first episode of the season) some reliable hands on the inside with TE Jermaine Greshman, and rookie TE Tyler Eifert, out of Notre Dame. They have a promising backfield containing, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and flashy rookie, Giovani Bernard, out of North Carolina. The defense, under the tutalege of defensive guru Mike Zimmer, is lead by All Pro DT Geno Atkins, MLB Ray Mauluga, and former rival and Pittsburgh Steeler, James Harrison. Harrison, based on the first episode is going to love getting his fifteen minutes of fame. He can’t wait to stick up his middle finger in a segment or let the world know that he really is an ass. (He does this alot in episode 1) Whether or not he still has that step and the ability to make big tackles is yet to be seen. Remember, the Steelers didn’t want him anymore.

What really gets me in my plums about “Hard Knocks” though, is it’s top notch production. The cinemtography of the show is brilliant. Amazing camera angles and candid player shots and moments reign supreme on “Hard Knocks.” Mix that in with some timely haunting theme music (little gems from the “Games of Thrones” soundtrack maybe) and you got all the Coach and Tammy Taylor feel that you need for a reality show about the game of football. “Hard Knocks” makes me amped for football. I wish the NFL Network, had a program like this for every NFL team, because the the script is infectious. I find myself now somewhat rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals. I want hometown hero Larry Black to overcome his injury and make the team. I want to see Andy “I look like Chuckie” Dalton, take that next step to being a stud QB, especially for fantasy value. I want to see Marvin Lewis achieve some long overdue success. These “characters” are now brought into our homes and you start to develop an affinity for them. Am I now a Cincinnati Bengals fan? Hell no. But I will sure be tuning in to find out what happens next. It’s the closest thing i’ll get to the game until the season kicks off. Enjoy the ride folks, and you can leave the tissues alone. Don’t forget that these guys are still making a lot more money than me or you. But one thing I do know, is football is back, and “Hard Knocks” is another reminder of why I am a true football fan.


Pittsburgh Steeler, James Harrison. The sky is the limit for this team

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