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Making the Bird

Posted 6/6/2001

The Baltimore Ravens may still be bitching and moaning about getting dissed by the networks and the National Football League--what, we're not going to be on Monday Night Football until the second week of the season?!--but the team will still get plenty of screen time this year. The league's entertainment division/propaganda juggernaut, NFL Films, is expected next week to announce its latest programming venture--a jump onto the latest broadcasting bandwagon, reality TV, starring none other than Mobtown's own Purple-Hearted World Champions.

Rumor has it that the team's 2001 training camp, kicking off July 29 at Western Maryland College in Westminster, will provide the fodder for an upcoming HBO miniseries taking viewers behind the scenes of the pro-football preseason. The Nose couldn't sniff out the name of the upcoming show, but our source at the NFL reports that it "will follow the Ravens as several players try to make the team"--in other words, a pigskin knockoff of ABC's popular Making the Band, which chronicled the creation and career of the pop group O-Town. The series is slated to air Wednesday nights from Aug. 1 until Sept. 6 (about two weeks after the end of camp).

Though it's clearly, and cannily, meant to capitalize on the popularity of the reality-TV genre, the show is likely to be the antithesis of Survivor and Boot Camp, "reality" shows in which the only reality is the relentless, in-your-face proof that, given half a chance, human beings will treat each other like shit. Most reality shows are built around giving folks that chance and luring viewers by showcasing human behavior at its scheming, betraying, backstabbing best.

These aren't the, um, realities NFL Films likely wants to portray. Rightly dubbed by Sports Illustrated writer Austin Murphy as "the most effective propaganda organ in the history of corporate America," NFL Films is all about making football and its players look good, countering the many athletes who do such a great job making the league look bad. Expect the show to focus on the heroic human drama of burly hopefuls putting everything on the line to realize their dream: Striving . . . Suffering . . . Winning. Just like on Making the Band, except for the "burly" part.

To deliver its latest brainchild, NFL Films producers won't even need to create the elaborate fiction of so-called reality programs: a punishing, cutthroat environment where millions of bucks are at stake. With the Ravens training camp, they've got the real thing. All they need to do is show up in Westminster and point the cameras. The only thing we want to know is, do we get to vote Ray Lewis off the island?

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