Admit it: Jets fan or not, you were excited for Wednesday's premeire of Hard Knocks. How could you not be?
Rex Ryan. Darrelle Revis. Rex Ryan's stomach. LaDainian Tomlinson applying for his AARP card. If Hard Knocks couldn't get you pumped for football season, nothing could.
Anyway, like I did for the Jersey Shore premiere a few weeks ago, I took it upon myself to keep a running diary for all to enjoy. Was it the most original idea? Of course not, a million writers have done it before me. But was it the best way to capture all the hijinks from Jets camp? I think so.
Regardless, let's pick things up at 10:02, since I missed the first couple minutes after getting lost on the way back from a friend's house.
10:02: Running late after coming back from my buddy's place, I sprint into the house, huffing and puffing like Rex Ryan chasing the ice cream truck. I flip on HBO and Hard Knocks is underway, with the super-fertile Antonio Cromartie in the midst of his off-season workout, dragging a tire through the desert.
Cut to the end of the workout, where, despite being in the middle of the desert without a woman in sight, Cromartie still managed to impregnate his trainer, two iguanas and a cactus. J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!!!
(Side note: For all the talk about all the zany things that happened this off-season with the Jets, the idea that Cromartie needed his bonus money up front so he could pay alimony bills didn't get nearly enough play. Why did nobody mention this? Why wasn't this the lead SportsNation for three straight days? Why didn't Cromartie get his own reality TV show, something like Cromartie and Kate Plus Eight? Again, this should have been a WAY bigger story. If only for it's entertainment value.
On a serious note, there's a big picture issue here. If Cromartie already can't pay child support, what's going to happen in a few years when he can't play football anymore? How's he going to afford them then?
Just promise that when you flip on the TV late at night sometime in 2017, and see Cromartie selling juicers on Channel 742 you'll think of me. And his poor children.)
10:04: Cue a Hard Knocks staple, "The Day Before Training Camp Begins," montage, where all the players say good-bye to the families that they pretty much ignored all off-season. I just wish next year HBO would show the really sad scenes, like the guy holding back tears, while saying good-bye to his buddies at the airport in Vegas. Now that would be an emotional scene.
10:05: Our first shot of Rex Ryan, signing a two-year contract extension. Before the ink even dries, Ryan calls up his wife and jokingly says, "Ok, you can go shopping now. But keep it down." What the cameras don't catch, is when he followsthat up by saying, "And pick me up one of those industrial sized packages of twinkies while you're out. And a cheese pizza."
(Alright, that'll be my last Rex Ryan fat joke of the day, because honestly they're too easy. And to his credit, Ryan is trying to lose the weight, even getting lap-band surgery in the off-season. In other words, he's gone from "Disgusting fat slob," to just "Fat slob."
Ok, that was really the last joke. Promise.)
10:06: We've officially got our first Darrelle Revis mention of the episode. Man, this isn't going to get awkward or anything.
10:07: With everyone but Revis in camp, Ryan sits down for his first meeting with the team. The cameras show him making a speech that included at least 36 different words (or variations of words) that I can't use on this website. Let me just put it to you this way: He expects them to be good. Motha$^*##@#@ good!
10:11: We learn a little more about Ryan, courtesy of linebacker Bart Scott. Scott describes his coach by saying, "If I'm in a dark alley, I'm taking Rex Ryan."
I'm confused. Is that because Ryan is a tough dude, or because if you stand behind him no one is going to see you?
What just asking! Ok, no more fat jokes. Seriously.
10:13: Our narrator tells us that while most coaches leave bed check up to their assistants, Ryan handles it himself. During this scene, he hands LaDainian Tomlinson a booklet full of negative articles about the team, calling it, "Good poop material." Seriously, is Ryan just trying to test me at this point?
10:14: We get a montage of the four newest Jets superstar signings: Cromartie, Tomlinson, Jason Taylor and Santonio Holmes. And if you're wondering, after this scene, yes I'm back on the Jets bandwagon. These guys really could win the Super Bowl. Seriously.
(So why did I get off the bandwagon in the first place? Well, it just seems to me like there are a lot of egos in that locker room- Holmes, Tomlinson, Braylon Edwards- who all need the ball. None of them are bad dudes, but what happens when one only gets two touches in Week 1? Or none in Week 5? Especially a guy like Tomlinson, who's hanging onto his NFL career by the skin of fingernails at this point. And if everyone does start bitching and moaning, can Mark Sanchez- a 23-year-old who just got out of college about eight hours ago- really hold the locker room together? I'm not so sure.
I don't know. I guess I just have a lot of questions coming in. Thank goodness Hard Knocks is here to clarify things for me.)
10:16: Next, we get our first, "Not everyone in camp is a star," montage, which really is just a nice way of saying, "These guys suck, but we want to at least have some built-in emotion when they get cut to make it interesting." One of my favorite parts about Hard Knocks.
This year's "They're definitely going to get cut by the end of the first episode," candidates are two players from Hawaii, Aaron Kia and Braston Celeste. How do we know they're from Hawaii? Because Kia makes sure to point out that while it's 6 a.m. where he is, it's midnight back home. In other words, he's really far away. Thanks Aaron!
(Random note for any college players hoping to catch on with to an NFL roster next year. Please understand that if you end up as an unsigned free agent with the team on Hard Knocks, and the cameras are following you around a little too closely, well it's not because of your good looks. It's because you're a goner.
If that happens just turn the other way and run. Run and take your playbook with you. You might be able sell it for a few bucks on eBay later on down the road.)
10:17: Rex Ryan on Kia: "76 is awful. On my God is he bad."
10:17: Cut to assistant head coach Bill Callahan. I'd like to tell you what he said, but I was too concerned for the safety of every single person watching in the state of Nebraska. They say time heals all wounds. Not with this guy it doesn't.
10:19: Another rookie who's almost certain to be cut, Kevin Basped shows up on the screen. He's got one of those "I can't believe I'm on TV," faces going. Definitely enjoyable.
(After the show, this article about Basped began circulating on Twitter. Definitely a really good read, on an apparently incredible kid.)
10:22: Ryan calls an immediate halt to practice when he finds tanning oil in the locker of one of his assistant coaches. I don't know what's funnier, that one of the coaches was using tanning oil, or that Ryan tried to marinate a piece of chicken with it. Just kidding.
10:23: Cut to the coaches meeting where, as a joke, the coach with the tanning oil is fined $5. Ryan later fines himself $5 for snacking too much.
I'd love to make a joke here, but at this point I'm too fascinated with Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who just appeared for the first time. Scary dude. Honestly, he looks like he just got out of San Quentin two days before the start of training camp, all he's missing is a neck tattoo. If Bart Scott is taking Ryan in a dark alley with him, I'm taking Pettine.
10:24: We see Darrelle Revis on a TV commercial, before General Manager Mike Tannenbaum realizes, "S**T, the Hard Knocks cameras are rolling. I should probably call him."
10:29: Our first extended look at Mark Sanchez, who is meeting with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Watching Sanchez, it reminded me of something:
When I was in college a few years back, my buddies and I had a debate that centered around, "If you could trade lives with one athlete, who would it be." We eventually settled on Matt Leinart. At the time he was a superstar quarterback at USC, owned L.A. and was cleaning up with the ladies in Hollywood. Not a bad way to live.
Well, I think in the here and now, Sanchez has officially taken the thrown of "Athlete I'd most like to trade lives with." He's good looking (Ok, really good looking. I'm man enough to admit it). Quarterback in New York. Making killer money. In other words, it's good to be Mark Sanchez (And in 2015, when Matt Barkley is the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins, I'm sure we'll be having the same conversation about him. Must be a USC thing.).
10:31: In an unexpected turn of events, Jets legend Joe Namath shows up at camp, and he's wearing his Sunday best: Short shorts with the belt buckled somewhere around his nipples, with a popped collar that from certain angles makes him look like he's wearing a neck brace. Hide the women and children!
10:34: With rain now starting to fall, the Jets get into a few goal line situations. First team offense vs. First team defense. After about 37 straight snaps that either end in a fumble or a running back getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage, I think it's safe to say the defense wins.
Back on the sideline, Namath takes in all the fumbled snaps, and- slurring his words- begins to complain about Sanchez's technique to his daughter, who clearly has stopped listening and is simply fearing for her safety at this point. On a side note, I'd put the over/under on number of drinks Broadway Joe had at lunch at 3.5.
10:36: Now in the film room, Namath is still ripping into Sanchez, first for all the fumbled snaps, and then for not closing a three way the night before with a pair of Brazilian models. Needless to say, the old man is pissed.
Sensing some tension in the room, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer tries to ease things by asking Namath, "So you had a reputation for having a good time right?"
Namath responds, "On the field sure. Off it, it was all work." Everyone laughs a little too hard.
10:38: Next we're subjected to four minutes on the race for the starting fullback job. Man things are starting to slow down. Can't they just cut Cromartie trying to impregnate one of the rookies in the shower or something?
10:42: Finally, things pick up as Tannenbaum (the GM) leaves camp to meet with Revis and his advisors. Because Revis is staying completely out of the media, the two parties get together at a diner in the middle of nowhere. Cameras aren't allowed (Although I heard Tannenbaum was happy with his tuna salad sandwich.)
After what was apparently a three hour meeting, Tannebaum and his people get back in the car, and drive home in complete silence. Honestly, I'm not sure if they just met with Revis or if someone's puppy just died. It's bad.
Tannenbaum finally pipes up, saying, "We're so far apart, I just feel like a failure.
One thought on this: With the Hard Knocks cameras following around the Jets personnel, Revis is an idiot for staying away from the media.
Right now Revis should be in front of the cameras, pressuring the Jets by trying to get public sentiment behind him. He should be on every radio show, news show, whatever, saying stuff like "I really want to be in camp. All I'm looking for is market value." Or, "I consider myself the best and just want to be paid like it, that's all." And you know what? The public would probably have his back. Because he is the best.
Of course, instead, all we're getting is the Jets side of things. And rightfully, they're trying to play the "victim," card and make Revis look like the bad guy. In reality, I'm sure he's only part to blame.
My only point in this, is that in a lot of cases athletes spend too much time in front of the cameras (aka "The Decision"). But in this case, by staying away, Revis is actually doing himself a disservice.
10:45: Cut back to training camp, where we're just in time for the Green-White scrimmage. Who's excited!!!...Anybody??
10:46: The scrimmage comes to a conclusion, with the players finally getting to see their families after being away for weeks. Amongst the highlights: Jason Taylor getting greeted by his knockout wife, Kris Jenkins rolling around with his kids on the field, and Cromartie getting served with a paternity suit from the receptionist at his dentist's office. Very emotional stuff.
10:47: Ryan has a quick meeting with his players, telling them that whoever has family in town, to go have fun, because they have no curfew. Unfortunately, anyone without family or a significant other in town needs to be back by 12:30, promting every fat, ugly lineman to his head down in shame. On the bright side, at least they're serving sloppy joes in the cafeteria for dinner.
10:48: Some of the guys who qualify under the "No family in town," edict, decide to head out, ending up at a bar that's so crappy, it looks like its straight off main street in Milledgeville, GA. I'm pretty sure when ESPN makes "The Ben Roethlisberger Story," sometime in 2022, they're actually going to film it at the bar the Jets are hanging out at in this scene.
10:49: The night out proves to be the last for our old friends Aaron Kia and Kevin Basped who are cut the next day. They're forced to hand in their playbooks and room keys, although this year we're given the added wrinkle of a coach telling Kia, "Sorry man, but if there's anything I can do to help, just name it. I know people in the UFL" Not exactly a ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one.
10:51: We're officially done, as the credits roll and previews for next weeks episode begin...
So what were my closing thoughts?
I loved it, obviously. I don't know how you can't. They could do Hard Knocks: Buffalo Bills, with the main storyline being on new coach Chan Gailey's hunt for a long snapper and I'd be tuning in every Wednesday. It's especially enjoyable as a former football player myself. All the ball-busting, head-shaving and hazing makes me a little nostalgic.
This year is especially interesting with the Revis holdout. Now I know that we seem to get a holdout every year (Dwayne Bowe with the Chiefs, Andre Smith with the Bengals last year), but this one has some teeth to it. Both sides have their feet in the sand and aren't budging. I didn't really think Revis would sit out all of 2010, but after watching last night, I'm really not sure.
And finally, there's Rex Ryan. At this point, I'm really not sure which he enjoys more, being a football coach or celebrity. But love him, hate him or anything in between, the guy is fascinating. Period. I wrote an entire column about the guy last year, and am prepared to do two more this year.
Of course, needless to say, I'll be watching next week.
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