FOXBORO, Mass. — Uniformly, the Patriots stated Monday that they haven’t seen an episode of Hard Knocks this season. Come on, that’s more stomach-wrenching than trying to watch Antonio Cromartie attempt to name all of his kids.
The HBO series, which features the Jets this season, is great, entertaining, compelling television that captures New York's vivacious personalities, such as head coach Rex Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, linebacker Bart Scott, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Mark Sanchez and Cromartie, a cornerback who has seven children by six different women in five states.
Pats quarterback Tom Brady started 'Hategate' on Monday by saying he doesn’t watch the show due to his disdain for the Jets. A few hours later, head coach Bill Belichick said he's "missed it" so far but added that he'd "probably see some of it." Yet, Belichick also said he doesn’t even know when the show airs, which is entirely possible due to the magic of DVR.
After the Patriots concluded Monday's practice, left tackle Matt Light, cornerback Leigh Bodden and linebacker Tully Banta-Cain also denied watching the show. Bodden, like Belichick, said he doesn’t know when the show comes on television, and Banta-Cain said he's seen past seasons but hasn’t paid attention to this season.
OK, yes, it's entirely possible that all involved have not seen the show. But it's just not practical. Seriously.
Hit up Twitter some Wednesday night and follow a bunch of NFL players, and you'll quickly see that guys in this league simply love Hard Knocks. It's a universal thing. The quality of the program is always strong, and the league-wide infatuation with Ryan makes it that much more enticing.
Then, with several hours to prepare after Brady's comments, the Patriots sing in chorus that they don’t watch the show, like they don’t want to flatter the Jets by acknowledging how entertaining their enemies are in front of the camera. And by denying their viewership, they won't get asked follow-up questions that could dig them deeper into a conversation they don’t want anything to do with in the first place.
How do you like the show? Would you want to play for Rex Ryan? If Tony Dungy tried to rinse Rex Ryan's mouth out with soap, would Rex Ryan in turn try to eat the soap? What do you think of Antonio Cromartie's parenting issues? Can you name all of your kids? When Rex Ryan puts his foot in his mouth, do you think he pictures it as a cheeseburger?
See, things can get out of hand quickly, and one wrong answer can turn into bulletin-board material.
But hold on a second with that one. Speaking of bulletin-board material, weren’t the Patriots once the kings of that stuff? So, if the Pats want more material, wouldn’t it be beneficial to listen to Ryan telling his team they're the best in the NFL?
"If we play at our best, we will beat every team in this [expletive] league playing at their best," Ryan told his team during their first meeting of training camp, per the show. "We know we're better than you. We don’t give a [expletive] if you know it or not. We don’t give a [expletive] if you give us your best game. We're going to give you our best game, and we're going to beat the [expletive] out of you. How's that?"
For one, it's a great way for Ryan to get his boys going. For another, it's a great way for the Patriots to get motivated prior to their Week 2 trip to New York. This type of stuff is jam packed throughout the series, and Belichick and the Patriots know it. And of course, they'd be crazy not to keep a close eye on their hated enemies when the material is spoon-fed to them.
The Patriots can say they don’t watch the show all they want, just like Cromartie can claim HBO put him in position to fail his name-that-kid quiz. Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to believe them.