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Sports Media

‘Knocks’ would be hard thing to lose

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / July 29, 2011

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When all labor matters were finally settled, the only significant football-related casualty of the NFL lockout was the Hall of Fame game, a Bears-Rams exhibition scheduled for Aug. 7, but canceled last week by commissioner Roger Goodell.

But something far more entertaining was probably lost somewhere along the way while the owners and players were playing their games of rhetoric.

It’s very possible - though not official just yet - that there will be no “Hard Knocks’’ on HBO this season.

Although there have been reports that the program, a mesmerizing peek behind the curtain of an NFL franchise’s training camp, will not return, there remains a sliver of hope at the network that a team could come forward over the weekend and salvage the program for this season.

Time is short with camps gradually getting underway, however, and the general reluctance of NFL coaches and executives to permit such access suggests such a lucky break for fans of the show is unlikely.

It’s a letdown for HBO Sports, too, and not just because last year’s edition, which won three Sports Emmy awards, averaged 4.6 million viewers per episode, and made a star out of Jets coach/snack aficionado Rex Ryan, was such a buzzy hit. The network’s sports branch is in somewhat of a transitional mode with the impending departure of Ross Greenburg, who spent 33 years at the network, the last 10 as HBO Sports president.

Although Greenburg resigned last week - reportedly under pressure in part because of losing popular fighter Manny Pacquiao’s recent fight with Shane Mosley to Showtime - his legacy extends beyond the 51 Sports Emmy awards and eight Peabody awards won during his tenure.

One might need to borrow Bryant Gumbel’s ubiquitous notepad in order to list all of the innovative and entertaining programming HBO produced in the Greenburg era. He was a driving force behind successes in different genres, whether it was the “24/7’’ behind-the-scenes look at the Capitals and Penguins, to its acclaimed documentaries (most recently the nuanced, thought-provoking “The Curious Case of Curt Flood’’), the newsmagazine program “Real Sports’’ hosted by Gumbel, to its ongoing and determined commitment to boxing.

Rick Bernstein, the executive producer of HBO Sports, has taken over responsibility for the programming in Greenburg’s stead. With plenty of fresh programming in the works, there is no urgency to find a successor, though there will be a search.

Here’s hoping that whoever it is, he or she doesn’t alter much, beyond reviving “Hard Knocks,’’ in 2012 if able. When it comes to sports, HBO is one channel that shouldn’t be changed.

Breaking it down A couple of thoughts that came to mind upon reading Adam Schefter’s tweet at approximately 6 a.m. yesterday that broke the news of the Patriots’ acquisition of controversial Albert Haynesworth from the Redskins:

■Does Schefter begin each day with a call to Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, with whom he collaborated on a book, or is it just that neither of them ever sleep? Let’s presume the latter.

■Schefter’s latest scoop was one more confirmation of both the value and sheer fun of Twitter for sports fans and media alike, particularly at baseball’s trading deadline or when circumstances conspire for a wild event like the free agent frenzy underway in the NFL.

Great acquisition The Haynesworth acquisition also serves as a reminder that adding Tedy Bruschi to its “Patriots Monday’’ coverage is a savvy move for WEEI. His institutional knowledge of what the Patriots require on and off the field in a player and his ability to articulate his points well, as evidenced by his work on ESPN, should make him a welcome voice during his weekly appearances from 4-6 p.m. on “The Big Show,’’ particularly if he can get something approximating candor out of his former coach, Bill Belichick, during his weekly interview. “I think he’s done an outstanding job transitioning to his role as an analyst,’’ said WEEI program director Jason Wolfe in an e-mail. “He knows the Pats and Coach Belichick better than anyone and they have an exceptional relationship.’’ Wolfe confirmed that Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie are no longer part of “Patriots Monday’’ but that he is working with them on “alternative plans’’ to be part of WEEI’s Patriots coverage.

Coming soon Building on the success of its superb “30 for 30’’ series, ESPN unveiled Wednesday its lineup of seven upcoming films, with one debuting each Tuesday from Sept. 27-Nov. 8. The first in the series is “Catching Hell,’’ in which director Alex Gibney ponders the scapegoating of Steve Bartman after his ill-fated attempt to catch a foul ball during the 2003 National League Championship Series. (Warning for Red Sox fans: Game 6 of the 1986 World Series is featured prominently.) Also of presumed interest to Boston fans is “Unguarded,’’ director Jonathan Hock’s look at Fall River legend and former Celtic Chris Herren’s struggle with substance abuse and quest for redemption. The Herren film is scheduled to air Oct. 18 . . . Comcast SportsNet New England will take a fresh angle when it airs tonight’s Cape Cod League All-Star Game from Fenway (7 o’clock). A portion of the game will be shown from a perspective that allows the viewer to see the ball in play and the runner at the same time, as if watching from a seat at the ballpark. The technology for duplicating the at-the-game experience hasn’t been entirely perfected, however - you’re on your own for concessions.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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