The Falcons Training Camp will be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks later this summer.
Two seasons ago, the Atlanta Falcons were one of the top teams pursued by the NFL to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks – an advance that the team quickly shot down. At the time, no one really expected them to do otherwise. Under GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons had always been a very tight-lipped group who tried their best to stay out of the limelight. It was a very predictable, very Falcons decision.
Time sure does have a funny way of changing things.
Only two years after turning down the chance to appear on HBO’s award-winning sports documentary series, the Falcons announced on Thursday that they will finally open their doors to Hard Knocks. The announcement has come as a huge surprise to anyone who has covered, watched, or rooted for the Falcons over the past six seasons. The biggest shock, however, is that they were never actually asked to be the focal point of the show – they volunteered!
Once everyone finished lifting their jaws up off the floor, fans and media alike began sharing their opinions on the Hard Knock Falcons – and it doesn’t look like anyone will be Kumbaya-ing outside of Flowery Branch anytime soon. It has actually become one of the more divisive and controversial issues surrounding the Falcons in recent years. Some people love it for the new recognition and entertainment factor it’s going to bring to the team. On the flip-side, many despise it, seeing the show as a distraction that will instantly derail a team coming off a disastrous 2012 season.
Both sides have valid arguments, but I believe that the hatred is going just a bit too far – especially when the AJC’s Jeff Schultz likens the training camp documentary to a Ringling Brothers show headlined by Bobby Petrino. I really don’t see Hard Knocks being as disastrous or hilarious as Petrino the Clown doing motorcycle stunts inside a circus tent, but I digress.
While I fully understand the risks that come along with the Falcons hosting their training camp for the world to see, I tend to embrace the upside of the situation. As Falcons fans, we should be extremely excited about our team getting the national exposure that often escapes most sports teams in Atlanta. It’s never a bad thing when a franchise has a chance to expand its brand.
I also believe the “distraction” label is thrown around way too much, and it only gets exacerbated when it comes to Hard Knocks. First off, Mike Smith was a part of Hard Knocks with the Ravens in 2001 and a similar documentary with the Jaguars in 2004. Those experiences should help him handle the dynamic between his team and the extra cameras at practice.
As for the players, NFL athletes are in front of cameras more often than not, and some added media attention shouldn’t cause a team to self destruct. If anything, the added face-time could lead to a number of Falcons players practicing harder and competing at a higher rate. With the egos that most professional athletes exhibit, you can’t tell me they don’t want to look their best for the hundreds of thousands of viewers week-in and week-out. If a little extra exposure does end up causing dysfunction and distractions, then that team probably isn’t mentally tough enough to be a playoff caliber group in the first place.
Speaking of playoff caliber, 4 of the 8 teams featured on the show have made the playoffs and 5 of those 8 finished the season with winning records – a fact that further debunks the Hard Knocks distraction theory. Hopefully the Falcons can add to that trend and become the 6th team to advance to the postseason.
The raging debate over the Birds headlining HBO’s Hard Knocks will likely continue throughout the entire season, and no one will truly know the impact until the playoff seeds are set. Despite the mixed feelings floating around, there is one thing we can all agree on – Falcons training camp will be more interesting and entertaining than ever! Until then, feel free to throw some gas on the fire and share your thoughts and opinions!