Hard Knocks 2nd and 10: Coffee, Brunch, and Bursts of Anger

Here we are two weeks in to HBO’s Hard Knocks with the Houston Texans and, while there are glimpses of the pressures to come in the following weeks, it is still mostly fun, like last week. For me though, while I mostly loved the silly stuff, it was one of the more serious moments that struck me as the standout of the week. Here’s my Episode 2 top ten:

10. Cornerback Kareem Jackson evaluates his children’s clothing purchases exactly the way my mother does. First, he puts his hand under the fabric to see if he can see through it or not. Once he ascertains it is good material, he makes sure it covers as much skin as humanly possible. We were not allowed to wear tank tops until we were adults. I think Dolores and Mr. Jackson would get along great.

9. I want Bill O’Brien to retire from football to teach a college course called Corporate Nonsense. Every episode when they get to him at the lectern, I get so excited. This week, it was how to answer a question with a non-answer. “What do you think of the QB battle?” “I’m just out there trying to help the team. “What’s the capitol of Texas?” “Just doing my job, sir.” I hope next week he teaches them about passive aggressively proving your worth to your superiors.

8. Sometimes I think hazing gets a really bad rap. Yes, most of it is horrible and dangerous, but these rookie haircuts, including the one someone described as “The Friar Tuck” is exactly the kind of fun newbies should be put through. I can only hope a rookie talent show like the Bengals one is on the horizon.

7. Last year I had Deandre Hopkins on one of my fantasy football teams. He performed well, so I loved him. I liked him a little more when he broke a dude’s ankle with his route last week. I officially adore him now that he has referred to the mall as his second home, informed us that women love a guy with a good murse, and that he wants a tiny dog to take with him in said murse everywhere he goes. Hey Deandre…call me.

6. Brian Cushing, were you paying attention to what Mr. Hopkins was drinking in the mall? That’s right…STARBUCKS. Buddy, you know I love a felow Trojan and I know exactly which Starbucks you ordered from on campus, so let’s not act like you’re far too masculine for coffee when you’re two sons are hanging out in a playroom that spells out PLAY with beauty mirror lights, mmkay? It is fine if you have an easier time relating to guys than girls, you just need to work on expressing that in a way that doesn’t seem like you hate the rest of us.

5. I will say, as a person who usually finds the intensity of folks like Cushing and JJ Watt offputting, this show makes me understand it a little better. While most people today are labelling Cushing a villain, somehow I can kind of undrstand why he is pushing Alfred Blue so hard. I think it is more than just machismo. This is a guy who realizes the fate of this team is throoughly tied to Blue’s success now that Arian Foster is injured, so he is pushing him to take it up to the next level.

People like Cushing are driven, just in a way I am not used to, as being a driven creative person doesn’t involve as much yelling and threatening of your peers. So, props to you Mr. Cushing for your dedication, but how about you get a frapuccino every once in a while and chill?

4. The Watt and Vince Wilforke combo is one I underrated in episode one, but their brunch discussion has shown me the error of my ways. It also doesn’t help that my personal rookie of the year Christian Covington only took a break from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to answer one of the coach’s non-questions in a team meeting and that is it for his appearance this week. But as Wilforke and Watt correctly point out, brunch should be an equal opportunity event, not something reserved for couples and groups of women.

3. The ever-reliable Mike Vrabel popped up long enough to remind a dude that if you don’t do your job, there are repurcussions, like getting kicked out of practice. While I find it entertaining, that and the story of the third round wide receiver rookie reminds me that next week is when this show starts to get sad, as people start to get cut.

2. The top two moments belong to the same guy: Charles James. First, we’ve got to talk about the man’s sock game. He has a collection of awesome funny socks and speaks extensively about how his socks relate to his self worth. What I especially love is how he treats socks that don’t work out with more respect than the average dude breaking up with his girlfriend. He told the camera crew he talked to the socks and explained they didn’t bring him enough happiness and no hard feelings before throwing them away.

Off topic, but I always assumed that, like most football gear, a certain type of fancy sock was required. Anyone else surprised a pair of socks you could buy at a Hot Topic are sufficient in the NFL?

1. Then there is possibly the most compelling moment I’ve ever seen in an episode of Hard Knocks, when James chewed out his a rookie safety¬†for messing up over and over again. To me, it would seem like this is a good thing for James, but he makes it abundantly clear: if you screw up, I am believed to have screwed up, and that means I may not have a job in a couple of weeks.

There are moments in Hard Knocks that are fun like trips to the mall and talks of brunch, but for a lot of these guys, their entire future is on the line. To see James so openly and honestly make it clear how much he needs this was remarkable, and reminds us why this show is the best reality show on TV, hands down.


Hard Knocks 1st and 10: All Hail Mike Vrabel & Christian Covington

This is my third season watching the HBO show Hard Knocks, which takes a look inside NFL training camp of a given team each season. While nothing will compare to my Bengals in 2013, this season with the Texans is off to a good start (though I said the same thing about Atlanta and all we really ended up with was a really funny segment where the WRs go bowling). Nonetheless, I am keeping my hopes high this season, especially since I already have ten memorable moments from Episode 1:

10. Pop quiz time. While it is charming enough that Bill O’Brien quizzes his team on who the employees are, what I thoroughly enjoyed was the subtle lesson about nepotism in a sport that is a meritocracy. Who is the CFO? McNair, good job. And who is his father? The owner, good job. Like an NFL version of this:

9. Speaking of nepotism, I don’t really know why Arian Foster has been so injury-prone his whole career, but did anyone else raise an eyebrow when he is like, “This is my trainer. He is also my brother”?

8. I am not a fan of on-field fighting, nor was I particularly impressed with Deandre Hopkins and DeAngelo Hall trash talking one another. What was impressive was Hopkins running a route so vengeful dude broke his ankle trying to chase him down.

7. Vince Wilforke’s wife trash talking his basketball game. “Where’s Dick Vitale?”

6. I love how O’Brien and staff keep telling the team how everyone is underestimating them and no one expects them to do shit this season and that the media has it wrong and they are better than they think they are. Then not two second later they will say something like, “You know when he coached the Patriots…” or “When I was a Patriot…” or “The Patriots do it this way…” Hoping the season ends with¬†an NFL version of this:

5. How much time is spent on JJ Watt interacting not with people, but random inanimate objects like a tire, one of those football contraptions you push pretending it is your opponent, a water bottle? Not to mention his singing along with his hype music. All I can think is that JJ would make an AWESOME American Gladiator.

4. Though, I can’t bag on JJ too hard, cause his commenting on how straight the lines are on the Redskins practive field. “Think dude was hammered when he painted these lines.”

3. The winner of the No Shame in My Game award goes to Ben Jones, who completely unprodded admits he vomited on the ball during a college game and continued on with the play. That’s my Pac-12, ladies and gentlemen.

2. Christian Covington took a massive lead in the “favorite rookie” contest when he informed the cameras he intended to spend his down time at camp reading CS Lewis.

1. There is always an adorable rookie on Hard Knocks and there is always a hilarious member of the coaching staff. We have our rookie. I’m pretty our coach is former Patriots player Mike Vrabel who won me over as soon as he gave his Snake Person players a stern talking to about what work is. Nothing like a guy not even your parents’ age reminding you that you are playing a game and it isn’t exactly hard work. All that was missing was a digging ditches reference, but hey it is only Episode 1.