As the three-day Memorial Day weekend comes to a conclusion, let’s repeat an argument that was raised at the top of the most recent edition of ProFootballTalk Live.
With team after team privately declining an offer to appear on this year’s installment of Hard Knocks and then publicly declaring their dissing of HBO and NFL Films, it will become increasingly harder for the show’s producers to convince any team to step up and accept the assignment. Really, who wants to be perceived as the sixth or seventh — or worse — choice?
Complicating matters is the fact that the Jets drew rave reviews after last year’s show, making it difficult if not impossible to follow in their footsteps.
Still, in a year that includes NFL Films founder Ed Sabol entering the Hall of Fame and his better-known son, Steve, fighting brain cancer, the teams that have received invitations should have been more discreet. Instead, they’ve flipped the declined invitation into the short-term bump in image that comes from being invited, to the detriment of the show’s ability to line up some other team to actually open its doors to the cameras and microphones.
Most recently, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf acknowledged in an on-the-record interview that his team had received an invitation, and that his team had said “no thanks.”
With the offseason fading and the lockout raging, it’s likely that there won’t even be an edition of Hard Knocks in 2011. Still, the chronic inability of NFL Films to line up a willing participant soon will rise to the level of embarrassment. Out of respect for everything that NFL Films has done for the sport over the past five decades, one of the truly elite teams, a team that NFL Films wouldn’t even dare to ask, needs to stand up and welcome the assignment.
Whether it’s the Steelers, Patriots, Giants, or Packers, a franchise of that stature needs to take one for the good of NFL Films, and for the good of the game.
In the end, it could be a no-lose proposition. If there’s no Hard Knocks series this year because of the labor situation, the team that volunteers won’t have to do it until 2012, at the earliest. (By next year, some other lesser franchise may be jockeying for the assignment.) And if the lockout gets resolved in time to produce the show, the team that accepts the gig will be performing a significant role in the post-lockout fence-mending between football and its fans.
So what do you say, Steelers, Pats, Giants, and/or Packers? The NFL and NFL Films could use a little boost right now. Why not give it to them?