Atlanta Falcons deliver 'wisdom' on Hard Knocks

Near as I can tell, not counting me, there are eight persons in this nation watching "Hard Knocks" on HBO — even though each episode debuts on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. and is repeated 13 times during the week. For HBO, it's filling air time if nothing else.

Friends, you are making a terrible mistake. By not watching "Hard Knocks," you are depriving yourself of the wisdom and wit of Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach and life-choices philosopher Bryan Cox. You may remember Cox from when he was an outstanding linebacker for the Miami Dolphins in the early '90s or when he was the "defensive front seven" coach at Tampa a few years back. But what you need to know is that he's a product of East St. Louis High School — which means nobody messes with him. Anyone who has driven through it and got out the other side knows what I mean. That place is rough.

The second episode of Knocks (which can still be seen Sunday morning or Monday night on HBO plus Tuesday night on HBO2) includes Cox growling at rookie defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman to get his (bleep) together. Clearly wanting to impress Cox with his toughness, Hageman punches another player in the head during practice. Unfortunately, the other player was wearing his helmet — resulting in Hageman hurting his hand.

Let's call it a learning experience.

The best is last, however. We see Cox and fellow coaches Anthony Maddox and Mark Collins, sitting next to a hotel swimming pool at night, smoking cigars so fat that you just know they are setting off smoke alarms a block away. And Cox is telling them (and us) how life works: "A man without some kind of habit got a lot of skeletons. Ain't no question. Somebody buried in his basement. He's got about three wives. You know, serial killer. Gotta have a vice. You ain't got a vice, somethin's wrong. This is a good smoke. "

Still, as good as Cox is, he's not all.

Every season of Knocks includes the struggling rookie with a hot wife or girlfriend. The Falcons have seventh-round linebacker Tyler Starr and Megan Wheeler, his fiancee. He's a big shaggy-haired lug from South Dakota and she's good-looking. Plus, he has a young son who HBO films during the Falcon's first exhibition game, saying: "That's dad! That's daddy! He didn't catch it! He didn't tackle!"

If Starr gets cut, he can blame his boy.

There's more.

We also have wide receiver Harry Douglas and his charming wife, Kierra. We see them chatting with another Falcons philosopher, veteran receiver Roddy White, who eventually pats Kierra's belly and proclaims it's time to have a child. She turns to her husband and announces, "I'm ready."

Harry didn't appear to be ready, especially with us watching.

Can there possibly be more?

Yes. Cornerback Ricardo Allen's new nickname after suffering a blow to the groin.

"Everyone keeps calling me big balls," says Ricardo, which is OK because it's cable.

And voice-over artist Liev Schreiber turns that into a perfect segue by saying: "Sometimes a big pair can come in handy."

Have you ever watched a more philosophical show?

Incidentally, coach Mike Smith is terribly self-conscious, while quarterback Matt Ryan is boringly pleasant. But so what when they have all this help?

And if you learn nothing else from reading this column, remember if you ain't got a vice, somethin's wrong.

Salute to Williams and WoW

We are all talked out about the sad news of Robin Williams' death, but he would be pleased to know that his image will live on in World of Warcraft, thanks to its creators at Blizzard Entertainment. Williams loved video games, even naming his daughter, Zelda, after "The Legend of Zelda" heroine. So the plan is to place a character inside the WoW's immense universe based on either Williams himself or one of his characters. Personally, I'd like to see a video universe that included Robin, Mork and Aladdin's Genie.

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