Bada Bing! "Hard Knocks" Starring Rex Ryan And Tim Tebow Could Be "The Sopranos" On Steroids

With Tim Tebow now a member of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan's team could create drama on HBO's "Hard Knocks" that could rival that of another popular HBO series, "The Sopranos" (1999-2007). In fact, Ryan shares many traits with Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini). HBO is expected to approach teams for the seventh season of "Hard Knocks" very soon.

June 10, 2007. The night when one of HBO’s most recognized series, if not the most, aired its final installment. That show was “The Sopranos.”

I don’t need to tell you how that show ended, even if you didn’t watch it. Suffice it to say, the abrupt ending – patriarch Tony, wife Carmela and son A.J. are enjoying Holsten’s onion rings to the tune of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” when Tony is startled by an unidentified person… who remains unidentified because it was at that point that the scene, and Steve Perry’s vocals, faded to black – incensed so many subscribers, the possibility of mass cancellations loomed.

Fortunately for HBO, that didn’t happen. In fact, the network actually reported an increase of subscribers toward the end of 2007.

And while HBO traditionally cleans up in the Emmy Awards every year, as they continue to churn out acclaimed hits (“True Blood”) and shameful misses (“Joe Buck Live”), still, the jarring coda of “The Sopranos” leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths – or at least, mine.

And you can tell that, deep down, Home Box Office still misses the “Sopranos” saga based on some of the concepts that they’ve greenlighted since that show went off the air. “Boardwalk Empire”? People have referred to it as “Sopranos” meets “Casino.” Even the recently euthanized Dustin Hoffman vehicle “Luck” looks like something directly out of a “Sopranos” episode – does the name “Pie-O-My” ring a bell?

There’s one thing that HBO could do that would not only fill that void just like Ralph Cifaretto (partially) in a random farm, but make everybody – especially in Jersey – forget about the controversial “blink-and-you-missed-it” ending of “The Sopranos,” as we approach the fifth anniversary of the show’s swan song.

Forget about Tony Time… it’s Tebow Time.

“Hard Knocks” – a production of HBO Sports and NFL Films – has brought viewers into the training camps of five different teams in six seasons over ten years. The Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens were the first team in 2001, followed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002. After a four-year hiatus, the Kansas City Chiefs were featured in 2007, followed once again by the Cowboys in 2008, the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009, and in 2010, the New York Jets, led by coach Rex Ryan in his sophomore season.

By far, the Jets’ season was the most memorable edition of “Hard Knocks,” if not for the family-unfriendly sound bites from Ryan.

So with “Hard Knocks” suspended last year due to the since-resolved league labor dispute, HBO announced that they will be planning for a seventh season of the program.

And lo and behold, it appears that Gang Green is inviting themselves to a second consecutive spot on the show.

While Jets owner Woody Johnson acknowledged “informal discussions” with the network, he vowed only to answer “a formal invitation” to be featured on “Hard Knocks.” And “when we do, we will take a look at it.”

Notice how the Band-Aid Baron is playing possum in public, saying he’ll huddle up with Coach Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum and “see whether it is something we want to do.”

Certainly, Woody would love to steal the spotlight from the Super Bowl champions, the stadium-sharing Giants. And that’s probably what most people, including former Jets quarterback Joe Namath, had in mind when the team traded for Tim Tebow.

Who are you kidding, Woodrow? Are you actually hesitating giving “Hard Knocks” another go-round, not only with your foul-mouthed, foot-meddling head coach, but now with a polarizing second-string (for now) quarterback in tow?


What goes on behind the scenes in this Jets locker room might make it worth subscribing to HBO. I know I’m not the only one preaching to this choir. And with all kinds of storylines, from the 2011-season-ending meltdown, to a possible rivalry between the incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez and the brand new Jets quarterback who Ryan vows to work into up to a third of the plays in each game, and how exactly Tebow might react to Ryan’s many F-bombs, a 2012 Jet-fueled “Hard Knocks” could make “The Sopranos” look like “Bored To Death.”

Usually, HBO knows a hit when they see it. And this one is whacking them right in the face, like Tony whacking his best friend-turned-stoolie Big Pussy… okay, maybe not that brutal. But the network would be crazy not to at least consider the Jets for this season’s edition of “Hard Knocks.” In fact, they should go one step further: don’t just film the Jets training camp, film the Jets until the season’s through. Whether the team is winning games or losing them – especially if they’re losing them – “Hard Knocks” with this cast of characters will be must-see TV.

Heck, if you take a close look at this Jets team, you can even see how some of the main players match up with some of the “Sopranos” characters: Tim Tebow is a dead ringer for Christopher Moltisanti, and while Tebow doesn’t share Chris’ penchants for heroin and spontaneous bouts of anger, both of them do have impeccable work ethics. Mark Sanchez is somewhat of a Silvio Dante, keeping a good public image and keeping his cool under pressure. And do I even have to tell you which “Sopranos” character Rex Ryan best resembles?

Bottom line: HBO would be nuts – and I mean Paulie Walnuts – if they don’t issue Gang Green a “formal invitation” to appear on “Hard Knocks” this year. And we should find out which team will partake in this season’s festivities soon enough: The Jets’ first appearance on the show in 2010 was originally announced in the last week of March of that year.

So don’t let Woody’s waffling fool you – the Jets are a lock for this year’s “Hard Knocks.” This year’s roster is guaranteed to have as much drama in the locker room as Tony Soprano when he ordered hits on people.

And unlike “The Sopranos,” this show won’t end in mid-interception.

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