The NFL Films training camp reality show, which returns tonight for its 15th season, has aired on and off since covering the 2001 defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. "Of all of them, this will be the least genuine look at an NFL training camp because the Raiders were in on the joke from the start," says Ray Ratto of tonight's season premiere. "Jon Gruden as head coach and operational czar …(owner) Mark Davis, whether he is on-screen or not … (wide receiver Antonio) Brown in all his moods … (controversial offensive lineman) Richie Incognito and his HR-able resume … (Quarterback) Derek Carr and his doe-like eyes … it’s as if Gruden and (general manager) Mike Mayock built the team for the preseason reality show. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is that players, coaches, and suits in all sports are better than ever before at knowing where the camera is and when it is on. They are actors as soon as they leave the house because in the post-privacy world they know the deal in a way that the 2001 Ravens didn’t. And this Raiders team is built to all the stereotypes almost by design because the chief builder is all the stereotypes by himself. He built his fame that way: by going from football nerd the way many sons of football people do, to the rebellious coach fighting the rebellious owner, to television actor playing a caricature of a coach...The Raiders represent both a summit and a cul de sac in Hard Knocks history. And that’s if it is a triumph. If it isn’t, the letdown will be seismic, and football fans will find new ways to pretend August matters. Hard Knocks may endure as an HBO staple, but these Raiders are their last best opportunity for the show to make a broad impact in the canine days of summer, and it either will never be better than this, or it will be damaged beyond repair."
TOPICS: Hard Knocks, HBO, Jon Gruden, NFL, NFL Films, Reality TV