Around the League  

 

Your (Un)official Season 8 'Hard Knocks' Viewing Guide

Here's some great news that's guaranteed to make your day 14 percent better: HBO's "Hard Knocks" is back on Tuesday.

Snuck up on you, didn't it? In a few short days, the wonders of premium cable will allow you to re-connect with the dulcet tones of Cotton Weary Liev Schreiber, who will narrate an inside look at Cincinnati Bengals training camp.

Just like we did with the Miami Dolphins edition of "Hard Knocks" -- a.k.a. The One With All The Chad Johnson Awkwardness -- Around The League will provide readers an episode-by-episode recap of the show's eighth season, which premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

But before that, here's your viewer's guide to watching "Hard Knocks." Consider it a CliffsNotes for diagnosing the tropes associated with the greatest football documentary series ever made.

And we're off ...

The Lovable Underdog

Best of 'Hard Knocks'
For more than a decade, HBO's "Hard Knocks" has found the drama under the drudgery of NFL training camps. Gregg Rosenthal revisits some past classics via NFL Films. More ...

This guy is usually undersized, lacking in experience, coming off a serious injury or some combination thereof. He is a legend at the D-II school he attended. He's typically described as "scrappy" and a "hard worker." The Lovable Underdog is almost always cut by Labor Day. You try to follow his career as his bounces around a couple practice squads after "Hard Knocks." Eventually you move on, but your DVR remembers him fondly.

One day, HBO Sports will erect a statue in honor of The Lovable Underdog. It will be in the likeness of Chris "7-Eleven" Hogan.

The Veteran In Search Of One Last Shot

This is usually the guy coming off 13 knee surgeries. He openly talks about looking forward to having a cigarette in the cold tub after practice. The coaching staff likes him and respects him for his hard work, but has doubts he is the answer. They're typically right.

Don't tell James Harrison I think he's this guy in 2013.

The Obligatory Position Battle

If "Hard Knocks" producers are lucky, they get to focus on a glamour position -- preferably quarterback. Who can forget the high-noon showdown in 2007 between Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle? Oh, you did? Somebody obviously didn't watch NFL Network in June.

If a QB battle isn't on the table -- it certainly won't be in Cincinnati unless NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell follows through on his promise to ban gingers from the game -- HBO and NFL Films will adapt. That's the beauty of "Hard Knocks": Even a right guard battle can be turned into gripping television.

The WAG Factor

Home Box Office knows what sells. Think back to 2012, when Lauren Tannehill became a household name (well, at least in my household). "Hard Knocks" will always make time to feature the wives and girlfriends of the players. This is good because studies have shown that professional football players are generally successful in their courtship of 9s.

Rookie Hazing

One day in the distant future, historians will marvel at footage of NFL veterans taping rookies to goalposts and dousing them with ice, talcum powder, Gatorade and whatever else they can find. Said historians -- dressed in silver jumpsuits and floating on discs -- will be slack-jawed as the leader they call "coach" hosts a "King Ugly" competition.

This will be seen as savagery, evolutionary torture tactics reminiscent of medieval times. Loosely related tangent: HBO should do a "Hard Knocks" on a Medieval Times restaurant franchise. Who's not watching?

Unnecessary Coach Temper Tantrums

In every "Hard Knocks" season, the coach will have an epic explosion toward his team. I believe this is written into the contract. I wouldn't be surprised if coaches prepared for the show by meeting with an acting coach.

The fuse usually goes off under ridiculous circumstances, like halftime of a Week 2 preseason game or something silly like that. Joe Philbin briefly turned human to rant about gum on the field. Marvin Lewis completely lost it after an August defeat. Rex Ryan went off over McDonald's cheeseburgers.

Man, I miss the Jets on this show. See you Tuesday.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15