The New York Times called 4th and Long,
the exciting and football thirst-quenching new show hosted by Michael
Irvin on Spike TV, "disingenuous". Their rationale being that the
program claims to offer a roster spot to one of the twelve budding
professional ballplayers who, for reasons ranging from an agent
screwjob to being from my New Jersey hometown, have not found their way
into the NFL. It only offers a spot in camp.
Did you expect the television writer for the Times to know how football works? I'm not sure the sports writers for the Times know how football works.
These twelve guys are competing for a chance to go to Dallas Cowboys
training camp and compete for a roster spot which, contrary to the
opinion of the nation's top newspaper, is not an offer allotted to
every athlete with a pulse. Will any of these twelve guys play a down
in the NFL in 2009? No. Will any of the twelve make a practice squad?
Possibly. And for a football player, that's a pretty damn big deal. Let
it also be stated that the eleven remaining guys each have played
football at a significant level (Big Ten college, Arena League,
semi-pro...etc.) These guys ARE football players.
The first episode of the series revealed a few things. (1) Michael
Irvin dresses like a designer superhero and can brilliantly deliver a
cliche-ridden-yet-effective sports monologue about NOT GIVING UP. (2)
Vomiting on television is captivating, especially when there's a lot of
vomit. (3) Athletes - perhaps more than any other walk of life - hold
to dreams despite a cavalcade of contrary circumstances. These guys are
compelling not because of the challenge set before them but because of
their own beliefs that they're capable of doing exactly what I've said
they can't do: play in the NFL. They'll vomit and cry and be humiliated
on television for a long-shot chance at the dream.
And all of these revelations make for a television show that is worth watching. Hard Knocks
(this summer featuring the Cincinnati Bengals) has become must-see
viewing for the desperate football fan, itching for the season to
start. It's fan training camp. 4th and Long is fan OTAs. Hopefully these two shows will merge in the coming years, allowing us to have a vested interest in the Hard Knocks
camp characters. For now, I'd just set my DVR for Spike tonight at 11
and let the smell of football enter the kitchen. Even if the meal isn't
being served for another four months.