Hard Knocks, Hot Takes

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Spoiler: Hard Knocks is not actually the worst thing to happen to the Falcons since Bobby Petrino.

The circus is coming.

You've probably heard by now, but if you are a rock-dweller and somehow haven't yet, the Falcons will be welcoming HBO's "Hard Knocks" to Flowery Branch this August.

And if you're the type to keep up with Falcons news, which seems like a pretty good bet since this is The Falcoholic, you probably came across this little golden nugget of #hotsportstake mastery on Twitter yesterday:

SEND IN THE CLOWNS.

I'll spare you the click and simply respond to some of what Schultz posits in an overly-dramatic weekday column that reeks of "Kids today and their reality TV shows and the Face Books and the rabble rabble rabble."

This isn’t the worst decision they’ve ever made in recent years. There was that one year they hired Bobby Petrino.

Hmm... OK. Not sure it seems fair to compare a TV film crew with hiring a coach that walked out on his team mid-season, among other things. Doesn't seem like we've started this jig off on the right foot.

So let me understand this: The same organization that fell apart a season ago, and not just because of injuries, has decided to let a cable television show go behind the scenes in training camp and follow players in practices and meetings and areas of Fort Flowery Branch normally off limits to non-team personnel?

We quickly get to the crux of what has Schultz (and likely other members of the local and national media) seemingly so upset. The Falcons, notoriously stringent with how much access the team allows throughout the year, are letting HBO go "behind the scenes" in Flowery Branch after they were limited to, well, I won't call the access good, from what I've heard.

So naturally you've got a bunch of writers that are already annoyed with the current regime.

Schultz is not simply mad at the fact that HBO is getting exclusive access, though, so much as he is that the network gets the invitation to the cool kids' table while Fort Paywall and other local outlets are still left out on the grand ol' party in the Falcons locker room.

And it would be fine if that was explained in the column. I am all for more media access, as I am for open and frank communication. And I agree that the Falcons have not been as accessible as they should under Smith and Thomas Dimitroff.

But of course, none of that is mentioned, because then that's just whining about problems at the workplace, and nobody wants to click on that. What fans will read, however, is someone whining about *shudders*... a team's "focus."

Focus was a problem a season ago. Effort and desire and emotion were problems after the season started to spiral.

Please, not this tired bit again.

Let me get this straight: Players, who literally have millions of dollars at their disposal and are left to their own devices for months at a time during the offseason, are going to be "distracted" by an extra camera crew. Right. But if those same camera crews also included Mr. Schultz, Mr. Ledbetter and their recorders, would they consider themselves distractions, too? Surely not.

Headquarters in Flowery Branch will be a sea of wires, cameras and microphone holders, and a director yelling, "There’s Bryan Cox making a rookie lineman cry! Shoot it! Hahahaha. Eat that, Jerry Springer!"

BREAKING: Matt Ryan trips on camera wire during practice, breaks both legs, ruled out for season.

Ah, yes, where would we be without the crying rookies? Their tears will look so pretty on the screen. Yes, it may be low-minded content compared to the AJC reporting on "whispers" that Phillipkeith Manley had gained 60 pounds last offseason, but shoot, it gets the people going.

I’m not going to call Smith a liar. That’s only because I refuse to believe he said that or typed that or would ever allow himself to think that. This is the same Smith who admitted when he was in Baltimore, he hid from the "Hard Knocks" cameras.

We know Smitty wasn't a fan of this move because, let's face it: He hates dealing with the general public. Why do you think a majority of his pro career has been spent in places with small-market teams? (Hello, Jacksonville).

Smith, like most coaches, is also big on being in full control when it comes to his job and his work environment. The Falcons are his team that he's been running for six years now. HBO represents an entity that he cannot directly influence, and so of course he's not going to be very receptive.

But his team also just went 4-12. You're bound to lose a little leverage with the ownership when that happens.

I get why Arthur Blank wants the Falcons to do this -- he's trying to generate more publicity for a team that just stunk it up while also trying to sell Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) to help fund the soon-to-be constructed, ridiculously expensive Falcons Beyblade Stadium. And we know the Falcons don't get much in the way of national coverage or attention, either.

It's not as if other teams haven't dealt with Hard Knocks just fine. The Bengals, for instance, went 11-5 and made the playoffs last season, and they didn't seem all that "distracted" by a few extra interviews with Margus Hunt and how he had been adjusting to life in the United States. Some players on the Falcons won't like it -- I can't imagine Ryan being a fan -- but then many already don't like interviewing with regular members of the media, either. It's just part of the job that some handle better than others.

So is Hard Knocks an inherently negative thing? I'm not saying the Falcons necessarily need the extra exposure. But I'm also not going to dramatize this whole business by pretending that the great black hole of HBO is going to swallow Flowery Branch and leave in its wake a tattered mess of a football team.

You can try and convince yourself that Hard Knocks viciously takes hold of the fragile football mind and lures it in with promises of fame and fortune (even though, you know, many players already have those things). You can pretend it will cause the catch-all of sports column writing: "distractions."

Or you can simply take it at face value for what it is: a T.V show that won't even be filming the team once the meaningful games start. It's training camp, for goodness sakes. WE TALKING BOUT PRACTICE.


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