NFL: HBO tackles Bengals
CINCINNATI ó The star-crossed Bengals are about to become HBO’s latest stars.
The cable channel and NFL Films chose one of the least successful and most dysfunctional teams of the past 18 years for its next “Hard Knocks” training camp series.
“We just think there’s an interesting mix of personalities,” NFL Films president Steve Sabol said Thursday.
It will be very personality-driven, given the team’s lack of success and national profile. The Bengals (4-11-1) were so uninteresting to the NFL’s schedule makers that they got no prime-time games this season.
HBO wasn’t put off. Even though the Bengals have had only one winning record since 1991, they could provide some interesting subplots for the five-episode program that begins Aug. 12 and airs each week:
óWill camera-shy owner Mike Brown let down his guard and provide glimpse of how he runs the team?
– Will HBO have to change the name of the program from “Hard Knocks” to “Chad Talks … And Talks … And Talks… ?”
– Can coach Marvin Lewis use the exposure to resurrect the Bengals’ image?
“Your exposure is based on you being successful,” Lewis said. “If you’re not successful, you get no exposure.”
Lewis was the point man in getting the Bengals a few rare hours in the cable TV schedule. NFL Films had approached him about doing “Hard Knocks” in the past, but he turned it down because he didn’t think his team was mature enough to handle it.
Now, he thinks it can.
The Bengals went through a stretch of 10 players arrested during a 14-month span from April 2006 to June 2007. They’ve weeded out most of the offenders, though Brown decided to bring back receiver Chris Henry after his fifth arrest. Henry has one more year left on his contract, and could be one of the players followed during camp.
The HBO appearance could help to change the Bengals’ national profile if the players stay out of trouble.
“Once we’re broadcasting to 50 states and 30 million subscribers have access to this, the Cincinnati Bengals will take on a more national scope,” HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said. “We’ve seen that.”