The ratings came in this week for the season debut of HBO's Hard Knocks '09, which features the circus of abandoned hopes that is the Cincinnati Bengals this season, and the numbers, much like Chris Henry's rap sheet, are big, disheartening and bewildering.
They actually topped last year's edition, which featured the categorically better, and, at the time, seemingly more entertaining Dallas Cowboys, posting a 28% jump in household ratings and 35% in household impressions. Alright, I have no idea what the hell a 'household impression' is, but those numbers seem large.
My initial reaction was to bury my face in my hands and mutter, "Jesus, what is the world coming to?"
If this were 2006, the Bengals would have the dubious draw of being the most arrested team in the history of the NFL, and beyond that, they would have the advantage of viewers mistaking the program for an old episode of The Wire or, in the case of a shower scene perhaps, Oz.
But I was hasty in my reaction. When I actually watched the debut episode, the reason for the high ratings became clear: America loves dysfunction.
And, if nothing else, the Bengals are a heaping, fly-covered pile of dysfunction. Running the show is owner Mike Brown who, as far as I can tell, is insane. Not the funny kind of insane, like Lenny Bruce, and not the brilliant kind of insane, like Howard Hughes. He's just plain old crazy. One of the highlights of the premiere would be his suggestion that a player be moved from defense to tight end.
Chad Ochocinco, also, provides a top-notch entertainment factor, as he explains in the debut that his commonly uttered catchphrase of sorts, "Child please!" is a nice way of saying "f**k you."
But considering that the aforementioned personification of senility, Brown, has said that he intends the show to clear up the supposed misconceptions of his team, the hijinx of Ochocinco and the owner himself will likely remain the height of intrigue on the show, the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with a team about which, soon after the season kicks off, we will forget completely.