Above Average Thoughts From An Average Guy
Two of the biggest NFL-related stories of the week—pertaining to matters both on the field and off—revolved around the Miami Dolphins. You couldn’t even script the storylines that comprised the second episode of Hard Knocks if you wanted to. (Alright, you definitely could. In fact, I think Playmakers incorporated all of this subject matter nine years ago.) I can only imagine that the documentary crew and producers compiling material for this season have never been so exultant at a career-jeopardizing knee injury to a prospective starting quarterback and a marriage-dissolving domestic violence incident. Let’s get to it:
-Touching on one of the other major NFL stories of camp thus far, Hard Knocks began by using the news of the untimely death of Eagles coach Andy Reid’s son, Garrett, to parallel the similar heartbreaking tragedy faced by Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, whose son Michael drowned this January. (It was mentioned that Philbin’s wife attended Reid’s funeral.)
The Hard Knocks crew deftly touched on a painful chapter of Philbin’s life that had yet to be addressed on the show. At one point, he gets choked up discussing his younger son’s reasoning for why his father should take the Dolphins job that he interviewed for the same month he buried his son: “Michael would want you to do it.”
The whole scene—particularly the shot of him on the phone describing his continuing difficulties at night reflecting on the loss—was evocative, and the revealing look was a reflection of what Hard Knocks can do so well: narrow in on the outsized personalities we see glimpses of on the sidelines every week and provide a poignant, raw view of the person’s character and humanity.
-After being spotted at the facilities well before any scheduled team activities, Les Brown is asked whether he’s just an early guy or if he’s only there because Hard Knocks is filming and he can get more camera time. He informs them he was there before the cameras. How come no third choice: He was loading up on office supplies, autographed memorabilia, and other team-affiliated contraband he could smuggle into his trunk before he’s cut in 10 days. I’m sure his in-laws are looking forward to plenty of Swingline staplers and game-worn Richmond Webb jerseys in the Brown household this Christmas.
-I know it must be incredibly awkward for Charles Clay and Michael Egnew to be reamed out by the guy who couldn’t finish higher than seventh among the tattered remnants of the Big 12, but I couldn’t get over what a pitch-perfect Bernie Sanders impersonation Mike Sherman pulled off in that rant. I can’t even tell which one was on TV railing against the Ryan budget just hours later.
-For the record, I always hate the contrived drama of the players-on-the-bubble plot lines of Hard Knocks, if only because their idea of “bubble” is so broad. There are plenty of long-shots they rightfully follow whose NFL dreams are likely to be shattered by season’s end. But is anyone really on the edge of their seat worrying about the precarious roster spot of Michael Egnew? You know how hard it is to be a third-round rookie and get cut in camp? He’d have to steal a cop car and drive into a police horse, and even then if he showed even a modicum of progress throughout the preseason he’d probably just get a four-game suspension.
-We returned to the three-way quarterback battle of Matt Moore, David Garrard, and Ryan Tannehill, featuring Pat Devlin and the Practice Squad Band. When we last checked in, we were informed that Garrard would be at the top of the depth chart for Miami’s preseason opener. So this week, we see a bunch of shots of Garrard helming the position and earning plaudits from the Dolphins coaches, because HBO apparently thinks their audience failed to read any football news over the past week instead of being informed of Garrard’s injury by Adam Schefter on our Twitter feed ten seconds after the news broke. (It’s also possible they merely showed Garrard’s training camp success to make his eventual downfall more painful. If that’s the case, they’re just dicks.)
-As a form of rookie hazing, Ryan Tannehill was forced to go up in front of a team meeting and sing a brutally off-key version of a Bill Withers classic that conjured up memories of Michael Cera’s impromptu singing performance for a bunch of cokeheads in Superbad.
Meanwhile, rumors circulate that Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener harmonized on a kick-ass version of “Lovely Day” at Colts camp. Sigh.
-This week’s cameo: Bob Griese! He joined Philbin to say nice things about the quarterbacks. Well, Earl Morrall came in for the middle portion of the episode, only for Griese to return at the very end and steal all the glory. (Five people just got that joke. And they were definitely all Dolphins fans. And it wasn’t even a good joke.)
-Haircut time! One rookie had his eyebrows shaved which, coming from a person with highly sensitive skin, made me cringe even more than the final scene of this episode.
-But the winner, hands down, goes to the guy with the penis shaved in his head. Second prize goes to the guy with the condom receipt shaved into his head. (Too soon, I know.)
“Glad we’re such a first-class organization,” Philbin replied upon seeing the phallically-coiffed individual.
Yes, you think the players are bad? Have you seen your boss’s first hits on Google Auto-Fill?
-Speaking of Jeff Ireland, now’s as good a time as any for our second installment of “Let’s Spot the Things In Jeff Ireland’s Office!”
-Mountain Dew. I would’ve pegged him as a Sierra Mist guy.
-TWO computer screens AND a TV? Well, Mr. Ireland is conjuring memories of a story from The Onion this week.
-The “Intro to Adobe” student that edited this scene did a shitty job of superimposing Peter King’s head onto this other sportswriter’s body.
-Why is Ireland so adamant about “Recycling Only”? There’s only two garbage cans, I’m pretty sure the situation could quickly be amended were such a mix-up to occur. If Peter King throws the styrofoam cup containing his Espresso Macchiato in there, does Ireland just go on a rampage? What if it’s a toss-up recyclable item (e.g. plastic grocery bags)? Talk about ruling with an iron fist.
-Also, it’s going to be around 90 degrees every day in Miami this week. Why is he layered like he’s going ice fishing in Duluth?
-Ooh, a stapler. George Young never used a damn stapler! (Note: The previous claim is unverified.)
-I can’t figure out why Jeff Ireland needs business cards. Is he just giving those out to the pizza guy or the guy who snakes his toilet? Wouldn’t his number leak within .00000001 seconds of handing it out? If you needed to approach his office, wouldn’t you likely have to go through 15 other people before you get to him? I feel like he had a $25 Kinko’s gift card he needed to get rid of and just had them print anything.
-I’m already approaching my word count, so we won’t delve in to why the orange highlighter is set aside from the other writing utensils in the cup.
Tune in next week as we further explore the detritus spread across Mr. Ireland’s desk.
-Chad Johnson is being lectured by Mike Sherman about his public persona and future with the team as an expired clock with zero seconds on it serves as the backdrop. Oh HBO, you managed to outdo your Tannehill-signing-in-front-of-a-Marino-poster loaded metaphorical visual from last week.
-“When they get arrested or get caught doing something, it’s like ‘Oh my God,’ so with me, it’s raw and uncut 24/7.” - Chad Johnson, mentioning arrests on Hard Knocks for the SECOND time before his incident last weekend.
-Last week, I wrote the following:
I’m still waiting to find out who is the random guy the HBO crew gravitates toward because he’s supposedly having a breakout camp even though we end up never hearing from him again. Prediction: Someone in your fantasy league drafts Roberto Wallace eight rounds too high.
Well, not only did the crew focus on camp footage, coach reactions, and an impressive preseason outing against the Bucs from Mr. Wallace, they looked at another wide receiver as well…
-Chris Hogan played lacrosse at Penn State (too soon) and was garnering some attention for his ability to repeatedly get open during practice. Reggie Bush nicknamed Hogan “7/11″ because “24 hours, always open.” Hey, he had the same nickname for Kim Kardashian!
-Anyway, savor the spotlight Hogan. You’ll have a 30 rating on the free agent list of Madden next month.
-Regarding the Dolphins’ dearth of legitimate wide receivers, Ireland tells King, “We’ve got fours, fives, and sixes. What we need is threes, twos, and ones. We have to find out who those threes, twos, and ones are.” He just needs to replace “find out who” with “acquire,” “sign,” or “draft” and our offense is set!
-Some skeleton crew had to tail Matt Moore to the airport just for four seconds of family footage.
-Poor Justin Garrard. (Although with those hands, he might be our No. 3 receiver right now.)
Wait until Roger Goodell finds out Gregg Williams paid Mary Garrard $10,000 to throw at his head.
-Holy shit, that Lauren Tannehill appearance took forever. But HBO jazzed it up by informing us that Mrs. Tannehill plans on getting involved with the Special Olympics and needs her husband to sign some autographs for some of the athletes visiting camp. So now they’re trying to portray her as attractive AND selflessly altruistic. Join her next week as she adopts a litter of kittens from the kill shelter and brings them to St. Jude’s.
-We got to enjoy brief excerpts of the Dolphins’ cheerleaders performing a remake of “Call Me Maybe,” as viewed by the offensive line during a film session.
After the video, offensive line coach Jim Turner quipped that the players’ expressions changed and “the desk was up six inches.” And you thought I was smutty.
-Seriously, they’ve squeezed Tim Tebow and “Call Me Maybe” into consecutive episodes. If there’s a “McKayla Maroney is Not Impressed” reference in the third episode, I give up.
-Also, that video seemed to confuse the fuck out of the girl on the right who happened to be in the ballpit at the same time.
-Mike Sherman on Johnson’s dropped pass: “Dag Nabbit! Dammit!” I’ll say it again: Rex Ryan’s Hard Knocks this ain’t. (Although Tony Dungy must be happy.)
-And I swear I heard someone coin the neologism “Gosh Daggit” earlier. (If anyone can verify this, it’d be appreciated. Perhaps this coach invented a new colloquial P.C. locker room expression, like when Gary Carter invented “F-Bomb”.)
-Hey, Lauren Tannehill’s back! They miked her up and cut to her reactions as she watched her husband’s debut because of course they would. She was joined by Jackie Long, who I assume is some struggling actress the producers hired to play Jake Long’s wife. (Perhaps it was the girl who auditioned alongside Bob Kraft’s girlfriend for that part in The Internship.)
-She also was wearing a Ryan Tannehill jersey. Well that makes one of us.
-It rained heavily during Miami’s preseason debut, as Hard Knocks depicted the inclement weather with shots of wet cheerleaders, which is coincidentally the title of the movie I’ll be watching shortly after completing this post. (Now THERE’S some smut, Jim Turner.)
-“Alright, this is dedicated,” Mrs. Tannehill tells the lady cast to play Jake Long’s wife in the role of “girl sitting next to Lauren Tannehill.” Actually, she’s at a rainy preseason Dolphins game with the crowd the size of a spring workout at Boise State. I can’t argue with her on the “dedicated” claim.
-Ryan Tannehill thinks he’s completed his first touchdown pass to Roberto Wallace, but replays show the ball clearly bounced and was trapped by the receiver. The replacement officials ruled it complete and good for 11 points and an automatic fifth down on their next possession.
-Tannehill is efficient on his second drive, going 7-of-8 for 83 yards and completing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay. Shit, we’re talking about actual football now. Sorry about that.
-Following the 20-7 loss to the Bucs, it was revealed that the three-man open competition for the starting quarterback job would likely be a two-man contest the rest of the way, as David Garrard had arthroscopic knee surgery that will likely keep him out the rest of camp.
-Finally, we get to the subject matter that made this the most anticipated episode of Hard Knocks ever. Few particulars were discussed regarding Johnson’s arrest—much more would circulate across various media outlets in the subsequent days than were addressed directly on the show, with Philbin evasively referring to it in a team meeting as “an incident”—but the access viewers were privy to was Hard Knocks at its best and most cringe-inducing.
First, a brief note on this whole sad and shameful story:
“Perception is reality, but you create your perception.” This little throwaway nugget of wisdom was from Mike Sherman earlier in the episode. Of course, he was referring to Johnson’s diva-like tendencies and reputation as a selfish, me-first, attention-seeking player. But Sherman inadvertently stumbled upon a harsh truth about Johnson’s antics, which have always straddled the line between endearing and obnoxious but never dangerous.
I still don’t know the details of what transpired, nor does anyone but the two people involved. By all accounts, it seems Johnson has yet to challenge the account of the story the public has been told. But Johnson has created his own perception his entire career; it always seemed like he was playing the part of a brash, over-the-top football star and just happened to also have talent. Whether it be Hard Knocks or Ev and Ocho, contrary to what he intimated at one point, it always felt like he was putting on a “front”; it was just a really consistent front, and the bits absorbed by the public were all we ever really knew.
My cynicism caused me to doubt the authenticity of this story from the being: Was this just a publicity stunt that backfired? Was this some subplot for Ev and Ocho that unexpectedly went public? Was she exploiting the incident for more attention? As intolerable and inexcusable as any instances of domestic violence are, the two principal players in the case were shaky characters with dubious credibility. But soon reality kicked in: he was arrested and cut from the team, their show was canceled, and she filed for divorce following a Humpdashian-esque 41-day marriage.
The sides of Chad Johnson and Evelyn Lozada that the world was familiar with were nothing more than outlandish caricatures flimsily masquerading as the simulacrum of actual human beings. That explains why this case was as jarring to Johnson (who sincerely appeared shaken up) and Lozada (who, as mentioned, quickly took action on ending her relationship with Johnson) as it was on outside observers. On screen, they were always in control of their perception. This incident required us to deal with the aftermath of when our fictionalized television characters came to life.
-A national story with sordid, unseemly, and dark details surrounding two attention-seeking television stars boiled down to a much more familiar visual in the football environment in which this show is contained: an employer terminating the job status of his employee. Philbin’s struggles to sugarcoat the organization’s decision along with Johnson’s pained facial expressions as his life and reputation unraveled on the same public stage that he so haughtily professed to thriving on was as candid, stark, awkward, and compelling as reality television can be.
This was not the image of the lovable bull-riding, FIFA-playing, name-changing clown Johnson cultivated throughout his career. This was a newly unemployed man, looking distraught, dressed in slippers and sweatpants like someone who just rolled out of bed on their way to get the morning paper, knowing fully well where this conversation was going, and knowing equally well that any response was both futile, necessary, and sure to ring hollow.
The director and editors seemed to think that the visual of Johnson’s locker being cleared out would serve as the harshest image associated with this story, but it failed to capture the weight of the moment as powerfully as what preceded it. Johnson’s looks told the story. This was a man losing way more than a roster spot. It was a man who, for the first time, lost control of his perception.
Raw and uncut. 24/7.
That’s all for now. Next week’s episode is teased with the line, “Chad Johnson is gone, so who will replace him?” Personal drama aside, it’s back to football, and the Dolphins still need a receiver. Who will it be? O.J. McDuffie? A catching dummy from practice? Hologram Chad Johnson circa 2005? I heard we spent a 2012 first-round pick on a guy out of Texas A&M who played receiver. Maybe give him a shot.