One of the most memorable parts of the first episode of "Hard Knocks" last week was Bengals linebacker James Harrison showing utter disdain to the crew.
He flipped the middle finger to the camera, made sure his middle finger was extended when the cameras were on him during a meeting, closed to door on the cameras another time, turned away from the cameras when he was giving an interview to another media outlet, he even jumped in a stranger's car to avoid the cameras. It was kind of humorous because it was so over the top and odd.
Even though Harrison isn't the friendliest guy in the NFL, he is professional with the media. He does interviews, including one with ESPN in the middle of a preseason game last week. So what's the deal with giving a hard time to the "Hard Knocks" crew? Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer asked him:
“I don’t feel they deserve to be here," Harrison told the Enquirer "They did nothing to be here, other than want to be here. They didn’t put no blood, sweat and tears into none of this. All these men in here, they did that. They (the cameras) did nothing. No one deserves to see this, to come inside of this unless you’re a part of this. That’s why.”
It's an interesting opinion, albeit a bit illogical.
The NFL wouldn't exist without fan interest. And "Hard Knocks" has become a fantastic annual tradition. The show, shown on HBO, is designed to give viewers an inside look into training camp and shows a side of the game we generally don't get to see. Hardcore football fans see things like the inside workings of practice or what a meeting is like, and it fuels their love of the NFL, even though they didn't "put no blood, sweat and tears" into watching it. Casual fans, or even people who don't watch football that much, get sucked in by the human interest stories, or also seeing how the NFL really works behind the scenes. It's a fascinating show and absolutely has helped the NFL's popularity. The whole point of the show is that the audience isn't "a part of this."
Harrison once got a $52 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus from the Steelers. He'll make $4.45 million over the next two years. Maybe the money means nothing to him, but he certainly wouldn't be quite as rich as he is without the NFL being as popular on and off the field as it is. Does "Hard Knocks" cross any boundaries that other NFL-fueled vehicles don't? Players are wired for sound during a game, most training camp practices are open, the media has access to talk to players and allow them the opportunity to share stories that make them very well known off the field, and cameras are usually in the locker room after games to catch things like Chuck Pagano's unforgettable speech to the Colts last season. The "Hard Knocks" crew isn't in meeting rooms because it won a contest, it's bringing fans a fascinating glimpse into the game they spend a lot of money on ... all so those fans spend even more money on the NFL in the future.
But, at least we know why Harrison is disdainful of the "Hard Knocks" cameras. Reedy wrote that the crew was supposed to be with Harrison for one of his 5 a.m. workouts. That should be interesting to watch.