September 03, 2009
As another season of "Hard Knocks: winds to a close and we're left to wonder how the Bengals will possibly win more than three games in a season as long as Mike Brown remains their owner, I find myself asking another question.
Why doesn't HBO film the same kind of all-access show for a baseball team during spring training?
I'm sure there are any number of answers and they probably range from spring training not providing the same kind of drama or visuals as an NFL camp to MLB Advanced Media officials standing on the porch with a shotgun if anyone from the cable network comes sniffing around with the idea.
1. Roster size Even with non-roster invitees and top prospects, a baseball camp still contains less people than a football factory and we'd be given more time with the characters and personalities we care about. Cedric Benson's revival with Cincinnati is a story that interests me, but thanks to fourth- and fifth-string running backs, we've barely heard from the starting running back in the past few weeks. I doubt you'd have the same problem with Ryan Howard(notes) or Chase Utley(notes) if HBO did a show on the Phillies.
One more thing: Though spring training doesn't provide the same kind of executions by The Turk, there are plenty of career minor leaguers striving to earn a ticket to the big show. Documenting their trials and tribulations would be worth the time.
2. Diversity One of the most enlightening things about "Hard Knocks" is that we're able to see how the locker room and off-field activities divide along lines of position, the depth chart and, perhaps most frequently, race. An NFL locker room is basically divided solely between white and black, but a baseball clubhouse throws Hispanic and Asian players into the mix, too. Watching how everyone gets along would be fascinating and the wide variety of backgrounds would be a goldmine for story-driven producers.
3. Down time After morning workouts, early spring training days can be done by lunch and that leaving plenty of time for the ballplayers to go out and get in trouble. (Just ask the 1992 Mets.) Plus, who wouldn't love to see the veterans drawing straws for the right to stay home and not make the three-hour bus trip down to Fort Myers?
4. Old guys telling stories No one knows how to tell a story quite like an old baseball player aimlessly wandering around a spring training field and I shall point you toward this HBO-ready clip of George Brett (language, graphic imagery) to, uh, solidify my point.
5. Sunshine and baseball Let's face it: No one really cares about the Bengals. But one of the big reasons that "Hard Knocks" is so successful is that because watching all the hitting and training really puts us in the mood for the upcoming season. It's a visceral thrill and the show's producers do a good job of delivering our fix. Now can you imagine them giving you a hot dose of sunshine and seeds on a cold Northern evening in March? I can.
Which MLB team would you want to see on a Hard Knocks-style show?