Culture / Sporting Life

Cowboys Prove Why They’re the Best Hard Knocks Team Ever — Micah Parsons’ Head Banging, Jerry Jones’ Everyman Breakfast and Dak Prescott’s Heart

What More Could You Want? HBO's Once Tired NFL Series Suddenly Has Mojo Again

BY // 08.11.21

It starts with Dak Prescott’s scars (and pain), but before long Micah Parsons’ relentless (and head unfriendly) energy, Ezekiel Elliott’s present wrapping misadventures, Mike McCarthy’s Austin Powers’ obsession and Jerry Jones’ breakfast habits steal the show. And yes, it actually is a show again. Boy, it’s good to have the Dallas Cowboys back on Hard Knocks.

Just one episode into the new season of HBO’s fixture of an NFL reality show and it’s clear why the Cowboys are the best Hard Knocks team ever. This is a franchise that’s always understood that football is entertainment and Jerry Jones certainly isn’t losing that trick at age 78. The Cowboys are great on Hard Knocks because the Cowboys’ leadership lets them be great on Hard Knocks.

While recent Hard Knocks teams allowed virtually nothing interesting to be shown on air (here’s looking at you Rams, Chargers and Raiders), the Cowboys are embracing the show of the show.

So we get our first real look at Prescott’s gnarly scars. And maybe even more info about ultra talented second year wide receiver CeeDee Lamb than we wanted (he probably should consider wearing a cup in practice so he’s not complaining about someone hitting him in the nuts all the time). Then there is Cowboys special teams coach John “Bones” Fassel getting into the details of his vasectomy with an entire room full of players.

Yes, the Dallas Cowboys sure do share. Which is what makes for compelling TV.

Contrast that with the attitude of Texas’ other NFL team — and you can see why the Cowboys are further ahead of the Texans than ever. If you missed it, the Texans of Jack Easterby went as far as trying to bar reporters from training camp by “ending” it early — until the NFL stepped in and informed the team it could not make a complete mockery of the league’s media access rules. So un-Cowboys like.

Micah Parsons is going to be a star — and it’s already almost impossible to keep your eyes off him. No Cowboy delivers more entertainment per Hard Knocks minute than this nonstop rookie.

The NFL’s most valuable franchise may not have won a Super Bowl in 26 years, but it sure knows how to embrace the cameras. And lean into the moment.

“I would do anything known to man to get in a Super Bowl,” Jones says in one memorable moment. “. . . I feel as driven I was when I first bought the team.”

Micah Parsons — the rookie linebacker from Penn State — is also crazy driven. At one point, Parsons starts head butting his teammates — helmet to helmet — during practice warmups. Those teammates understandably do not seem nearly as into this as Parsons is.

Then, the rookie starts smacking himself.

Micah Parsons Hard Knocks Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons is already a Hard Knocks darling. For good reason.

One thing is already clear. Parsons is going to be a star — and it’s already almost impossible to keep your eyes off him. No Cowboy delivers more entertainment per Hard Knocks minute than this nonstop rookie. This is someone who makes the most of his reps.

“Penn State used to have snacks at practice,” Parsons soliloquies. “I loved that.”

And what do Parsons’ teammates think of him?

“Holy shit, he’s fast,” Prescott marvels as Parsons pursues sideline to sideline in practice.

Dak Prescott is Beyond Hard Knocks Real

Prescott may not be quite as fast as he used to be after breaking his ankle last season (an injury which required two surgeries, another Hard Knocks revelation), but he remains the single most compelling athlete in the Metroplex. With apologies to Luka Doncic.

“I love scars. I’ve got plenty of them,” Prescott says a Hard Knocks opener to remember. Showing off your gnarly physical scars is one thing. But the way Prescott openly talks about losing his brother to suicide means even more.

This is an athlete who is going to make a difference whether he ever wins a Super Bowl or not.

Prescott’s bond with Elliott make the running back seem more likable too. Elliott wraps a present for the first time in his life — at age 26 — because he wants to give his buddy a birthday gift. Turning to a YouTube gift wrapping tutorial does Elliott little good, but despite the awkward wrapping (and reams of innocent tape wasted) the actual gift turns into a big hit.

“That’s dope,” Prescott says on opening the $13,000 Goyard suitcase, leaving Elliott beaming. “That’s dope as f***. That’s fire.”

Jerry Jones’ breakfast is a different kind of fire. Still, it’s nice to know that a guy who owns a $250 million superyacht still can appreciate a $3 McDonald’s McGriddle breakfast sandwich. Even if Jones douses it with more salt than even the French country rat in Ratatouille would recommend.

Whether Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy using Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me — a movie that came out in 1999 — to motive his players (Mojo Moments!) makes you feel better or worse about his coaching is up to you. At least, McCarthy comes across better than Dave Campo.

One thing’s certain. The Cowboys are back on Hard Knocks. And HBO is much better for it.

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