Hard Knocks is one of my favorite shows. The genius of the show is that it can make you care about a player you've never heard of and might not ever star in the NFL. How many people knew of Devon Cajuste before watching him in a recent episode? He's fighting for a tight end spot on the roster. What other show would make you suddenly root for a guy to become a backup tight end on the Cleveland Browns? Watching him and his father whistle to each other to get each other's attention was my favorite part of last week's episode. His father said they are best friends. The father has suffered serious health problems. Once your heartstrings have been tugged, it's near impossible not to get drawn in by their closeness.
There's also a story line of trying to keep a young man on the straight and narrow path. It's noticeable to coaches that rookie Antonio Callaway is upset about something, but he won't tell them what happened. Come to find out he was pulled over and a small amount marijuana was in his car. Head coach Hue Jackson announces to the team that he supports Callaway for now, but makes it clear he won't support any more bullshit (my recollection is he warned Callaway not to bullshit him anymore). Callaway then apologizes to his teammates. Callaway is made to play nearly ever snap of the following preseason game as punishment. He's exhausted but plays through it. As a viewer, I want to see this young man make good decisions and succeed in the NFL.
We also get to see defensive player Myles Garrett write poetry and talk about his appreciation for poetry. He comes off as a very likable guy.
There's also the usual ingredient of the coaching staff cursing left and right. Though formulaic, it's sometimes comical to see these older men scream at the top of their lungs at practices and in preseason games (the yelling must quickly become tiresome to the players, and one wonders about the effectiveness of so much swearing and hollering).
A player on the margins of the NFL. A young man challenged to stay on course at the beginning of his career. A talented player who enjoys writing poetry. Coaches being hot and bothered, frequently using foul language. Just a few elements to hook viewers.
There's a lot I like so far in watching this season. Right now, perhaps more than anything, I hope Devon Cajuste makes the final roster (my prediction is he'll make the practice squad rather than the 53 man roster).