Once the Oakland Raiders were named the team to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks, I started to hear:
“The Raiders ‘mystique’ will be exposed!” That’s an asinine assertion steeped deep in high-grade manure.
That ‘mystique’ hasn’t been around since the 1983 Raiders won the Super Bowl. It’s evaporated since that game and completely dried up after the Super Bowl debacle against Jon Gruden and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.
The only exposure that will come with HBO film crews descending upon Napa is the colorful cast of characters the Raiders assembled last and this offseason.
From players Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, Richie Incognito to the TV Twins — head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock — and the team’s impending departure from Oakland to Las Vegas, there’s no shortage of storylines heading into this bad boy.
For pure entertainment value alone — just how long until we see Incognito and Burfict go at one another? — this is likely to go down as one of the best Hard Knocks seasons in HBO’s history.
You’d be hard pressed to find a coach/GM combo that are more readymade for the TV screen than Gruden and Mayock. Both cut their teeth in front of cameras for bigtime networks and neither will shy away from the ones HBO brings to town.
You Might Also Like: Raiders Should Thrive Under Guenther in Year Two
Burfict and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther won’t bat an eye when Hard Knocks crews arrive as both were with the Cincinnati Bengals when the team got double-billing — in 2009 and 2013.
“You just come in every day to work,” Burfict said plainly when queried about the show. “Obviously, there are cameras around the building but every day is a work day and just come and get better.”
Ok, I may have fibbed a little.
Here’s something else that will be exposed in August: The kayfabe act players put on vs. how they really are.
“They do a really good job of staying out of your way … I know the positive thing is you find out a lot about your team and the coaches on staff that, `Hey, when the camera is on are going to be a different guy or a different player?’,” Guenther said.
“After the third day, you don’t notice, you’re so used to having them around you go about your business.”
And that’s critical to the Raiders “Do It For The Town” mantra — Go About Your Business.
This isn’t about the ‘distractions’ HBO is allegedly going to bring to Raiders training camp. The better teams in the NFL aren’t burdened by extra eyes in camp. They just go about their business as usual.
I get Raider Nation’s angst about Hard Knocks cameras honing in on their beloved team — I really do.
Is this something a team hellbent on returning to relevance needs? That is a valid inquiry.
But ask yourself this: What was the excuse when the Raiders endured it’s patented decade of suckage? There were no alleged “distractions” then, no?
Those HBO cats in Napa are the least of the Raiders’ worries. Leave it to Gruden to put things in perspective in a manner only he can:
“We are trying to worry about this team, this week,” he said. “We got a lot of adversity we’re facing right now with this team. We got a lot of distractions. I think we are playing in three countries (this season), we go about two months without a home game, we are in a process of moving, and we are going to try like crazy to keep all of our best players as we head to Las Vegas.
“We are just assembling our regime. Mayock just got off the plane. We hired some really credible, proven, big time scouts and executives, and we are excited about the future. We also have a great responsibility to finish what has been a great run here in Oakland, and I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control.”
So why not get an in-depth look at the Silver & Black’s final year in the East Bay as they grind in Napa. That’s a spot known as Wine Country. We don’t need to hear anymore whining from Raider Nation.
Plus, the East Bay needs a bit of shine after the dilapidated and hobbled Golden State Warriors got waxed by the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals.