Hard Knocks: More Reality TV than Documentary


HBO’s long-running docu-series Hard Knocks is a brilliantly produced behind-the-scenes look at an NFL team before the season kicks off. The hour-long episodes showcase a few select personalities, as the rookies of the squad play their hearts out to try to make the eventual 53-man roster.

Every year, Hard Knocks lands as hype for the NFL season reaches fever pitch. It’s easy for any football fan to get excited for the upcoming NFL season, but HBO’s documentary-style show magnifies the excitement. It’s all too easy to get caught up and blinded by the show’s perfect production. By the end of this season, the Houston Texans look like a team of supermen ready to take on the entire league. But is that really the case, or is their apparent skill due to the high budget of Hard Knocks?

Rookies with the distinct combination of skill and personality become the standout stars throughout the show’s five-episode season. This year, one of those stars was defensive back Charles James II.

James appeared on the show early in the season with his flashy personality and his trademark socks. He always wore unique high socks with colorful designs. It helped him stand out from the crowd, which had to have been by design.

On the field, the show never showed James’ shortcomings. In episode four, James was featured playing his heart out in a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. James was shown making huge tackles on defense and special teams. Late in the game, he was put in the running back position and broke a huge 73-yard touchdown run that was called back for holding.

Odell Beckham Jr. Plays Charles James in an online game of Madden 16

It looked like James was a shoe-in for the 53-man roster, but on September 5 it was reported that James had been waived by the Houston Texans coaching staff. He is no longer a part of the organization.

Based on what was shown on this season of Hard Knocks, how can this be? James showed flashes of greatness on the field in multiple positions. How could the Texans organization not find a spot for him even as a backup?

Hard Knocks is famous for making the players on the gridiron look better than they are. When hits on the practice field are shown in slow or fast motion to high-octane music, it makes these athletes look like superheroes. The meticulous editing shows what the directors want the audience to see.

It’s not HBO’s or the production of Hard Knocks’ fault when it comes to not showing the audience the full picture. We’re talking about an entire season of NFL training camp condensed into just five hours. But James’ release is such a shock to show fans because there wasn’t anything shown to suggest that James’ wouldn’t be a final member of the team.

Vince Wilfork cracks up the team with this country getup

While Hard Knocks is undeniably entertaining, it’s important to view it through a realistic lens. The selective five hours the show chooses to reveal of training camp is, for the most part, fiction. James was prominently featured each episode thanks to his socks, personality and skill on the field.

This show is far from a metric to measure eventual success during the 2015 NFL season. It’s reality entertainment, pure and simple. The cast is a bunch of guys who play America’s most popular sport. That’s what make it exciting television. We may not be seeing the whole picture, but who really cares. Just make sure to take each episode of Hard Knocks with a grain of salt. Don’t go building your fantasy team around it.