Recap: Hard Knocks Episode 1
HBO’s very own football series is back with the potential to be one of the most exciting seasons yet.
Considering the rookie talent, the addition of Antonio Brown, and the second year of Super Bowl-winning Head Coach Jon Gruden at the helm, the selection of this year's Hard Knocks team was an obvious one. The Oakland Raiders offer more than enough to create both the nostalgia and drama to drive football fans crazy.
Above all, HBO has always had a knack for perfecting the aesthetics of this series. The filming of the grounds crew, the flashbacks of John Madden, and even the violin cover of Wiz Khalifa’s "Black and Yellow" over Antonio Brown highlights only added to my growing impatience for the regular season to start.
Along with that, Antonio Brown is quite possibly the most ideal player to be on camera. He is a hard working football star with a relentless work ethic mixed with a personality that was made for TV. For example, we first see him on the field rehabbing before camp and then the very next scene we see him on his way to camp via hot air balloon, saying lines like “float like a butterfly, get ready to sting like AB”. Antonio Brown’s double-minded mentality offers situations for both diehard football fans and viewers that have a sweet tooth for drama.
Similar to Brown’s TV-like personality, Jon Gruden offers similar qualities but in the form of a hardo head coach. Over the course of Gruden’s tenor in the league, there have been plenty of rich mic’d up moments. While we didn't get any of Gruden's eminent metaphors, they will be coming. It’s only a matter of time before we see him red-faced and yelling bizarre phrases.
The last thing I loved was the throwback clip of John Madden talking about the 7-man sled and how it switched off showing the modern day Raiders and Gruden. This scene was for all the fans that love tradition; it made me excited for the Raiders future and I'm not even a Raiders fan.
While the show’s premiere offered many positives, there were some areas that lacked- the biggest one being that Josh Jacobs was MIA. The rookie running back that was drafted in the first round was nowhere to be seen. He will assume the lead back role and is figured to be a very important part of the offense, which is why I can’t fathom the reason they chose to exclude him from the first episode. I can only assume that in the next episode he will be featured more than his fellow first round picks.
Speaking of which, Johnathan Abram lived in the spotlight this first episode and maybe had the most screen time of any player. Leading up to the episode I thought Abram was going to be a beast in the NFL, and while I still think he will be good, I was thrown off by his childish behavior. More specifically, the dinner scene with Derek Carr had me practically cringing the entire time. I get it; maybe he's just a goofy guy, but he's a rookie at the beginning of training camp talking to QB1. He should tone it down a bit.
Another area that I thought the episode lacked in was on-field shots and more of the X’s and O’s side. I can’t be too upset because I know it’s coming, but I thought we would have seen more in the first episode.
Along with that, I hope Hard Knocks can manage to stray away from the Antonio Brown reality show or even Gruden for that matter. It shouldn’t lose sight that this still a football show and people watch to see the in’s and out’s of the organization that's being followed. It’s a fine line that can easily be crossed.
Overall, I thought that Hard Knocks did a fantastic job of setting up the upcoming episodes while perfecting the aesthetics that make every football fan crave the beginning of the year. Most of my complaints can, and probably will, be fixed in the upcoming episodes. I hope that moving forward there will be plenty of Gruden yelling “Spider 2 Y Banana” or some random saying that he just came up with on the spot. Hard Knocks can make or break the season in the next few episodes, so I'm excited to see what they have to offer us.