NFL Films and HBO have pretty much rewritten the book on what sports television can be over the 20 years of Hard Knocks, so consider this audacious, three-minute flyover shot an all-time flex, the pièce de résistance, for the whole team. As Peter Schrager aptly put it, it’s the Goodfellas Copacabana shot for sports TV nerds, and it will go down as one of the most indelible moments in this show’s rich history. Bravo.
The background: The Hard Knocks production team had a three-hour window to pull the drone shot off before a boxing match scheduled at the facility, and they stuck the landing (literally) on their 15th and final try. I want to know the name of the drone operator because a person with hand-eye coordination like that could be the functional backup quarterback the Cowboys are so desperately searching for right now.
The stunning open to the third episode of Hard Knocks also served a functional purpose — it gave viewers an intricate, (literal) bird’s eye view of Dallas Cowboys headquarters a.k.a. The Star. The campus covers 91 acres and includes a 12,000 seat indoor stadium, boutique shopping center and a luxury hotel. It’s the most Texas thing that’s ever existed.
And it all exists because of Jerry Jones, whose bigger-is-better mantra is a perfect fit for the state his team represents. The Star, along with AT&T Stadium — or Jerry World, the other crown jewel of the Cowboys empire — are as much a part of Jones’ legacy in Dallas as the three Super Bowl titles he captured in the ’90s. This month, Forbes estimated the Cowboys’ worth at $6.5 billion, making them (by far) the NFL’s most valuable team for the 15th straight year. That’s $6.5 billion on an initial investment of $150 million when Jones purchased the team in 1989. You’d guess that removes some of the sting of 26 years without a championship.
The Cowboys are easy to hate, and fun to root against for many of the league’s millions of fans, but they are incredibly important to the ecosystem of the sport. They are what the New York Yankees are in Major League Baseball; what Manchester United is to fans of the Premier League. You might detest the Cowboys, but you know the sport isn’t nearly as enjoyable when they’re not front and center in the mix.
Jones, now entering his fourth decade as the boss, is at the center of it all: The most famous owner of the league’s most famous team. During Tuesday’s episode, we get another Hard Knocks first when Jones is interviewed from his private helicopter at the start of the 36-mile journey from the team facility to the stadium for a preseason matchup against the Texans. Jones’ musings on roster construction are interrupted by the pilot, who cautiously relays a request for a return to team headquarters to collect Stephen Jones, Jerry’s eldest son and the No. 2 in the company power structure. Jerrah is annoyed — if NFL Films cameras aren’t trained on him at that moment he might tell Stephen to get his ass up President George Bush Turnpike in a cab.
But on this day? Stephen is in luck. Jerrah swallows his rage and authorizes the return trip to The Star. “Why not just start the day f—–‘ it up?,” Jerrah grouses with a grin. “Startin’ off the day here with a pre-snap penalty.”
Why does HBO need another season of Succession when it already has America’s Team?