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Dolphins embrace the 'Hard Knocks' microscope

NFL teams are known for trying to control their message when it comes to media coverage. Then why would the Miami Dolphins invite the "Hard Knocks" cameras to their training camp? For the same reason that people used to go on the Jerry Springer Show to talk about marrying their cocker spaniel: for the attention.

HBO and NFL Films announced this past week that the Dolphins were chosen for the series that takes viewers behind the scenes at an NFL training camp. The 6-10 Dolphins ranked 28th in the league in attendance last year. Their offseason courtship of Peyton Manning was unsuccessful. And the Dolphins compete in South Florida for "mind share" -- as marketers say -- with LeBron James' Heat and the baseball Marlins, as well as the state's top college football teams.

Remember when signing Terrell Owens was going to make the Bills "relevant" again? Me neither, but that was the plan.

The Dolphins have a new head coach in Joe Philbin. They have a quarterback competition between David Garrard, Matt Moore and rookie Ryan Tannehill. This is a franchise in need of a relevancy boost, and "Hard Knocks" is a pretty good quick fix for that.

Rex Ryan's big mouth drew national attention when the Jets were featured on "Hard Knocks" two years ago. And when the Bengals appeared in 2009, that turned into the Chad Ochocinco Show.

It's hard to imagine the Patriots and Bill Belichick agreeing to do the program, the filming of which could certainly become a distraction in training camp.

What about everyone's other favorite AFC East team? The Bills were not asked, as far as we know. Had they been invited, it would have made for some interesting conversations between the football and marketing departments. Considering that Buffalo plays an annual home game in Toronto, my money would be on the marketers.

It's a little difficult to describe exactly what "Hard Knocks" is to someone who doesn't subscribe to HBO and has never seen it. It's not quite reality TV, a term that is always said with a wink, like "fair and balanced." The Kardashians, the Real Housewives of Orange County and the Cake Boss of Hoboken are all actual people, but how "real" is the depiction of their lives when the cameras are rolling?

"Hard Knocks" is very entertaining, and it does have an unscripted, cinema verite feel to it. But let's remember, the fact that NFL Films is a partner in the making of the program means it's going to portray its subject matter with a certain reverence. Has anyone done more to polish the league's image, to turn football men into myths, than the good folks at NFL Films?

"On the 40th anniversary of the greatest season in NFL history -- Don Shula's perfect '72 Dolphins -- it is perfectly fitting that 'Hard Knocks' is heading to Miami to capture the start of a new era for one of the league's proudest teams," NFL Films President Steve Sabol said last week. (Cue the drum-beat background music.) "After Hard Knocks' hiatus last summer, I know our team at NFL Films can't wait to get back on the field."

While the quarterback competition might not be among the NFL's most riveting, the "Hard Knocks" cameras will probably stay riveted on Tannehill and -- when possible -- his wife. Lauren Tannehill is an attractive blonde who models for national magazines. Ryan Tannehill was the Dolphins' first-round draft pick, out of Texas A&M. The camera-ready couple will no doubt find their way into a story line or two.

Several teams allegedly turned down HBO's overtures to appear on the show, including the Broncos, Falcons, Jets, Redskins, Texans and 49ers. The producers maintain the Dolphins were the only team that was "offered" the show this year. I guess it depends what your definition of "offered" is.

Philbin last week said he welcomed the attention that "Hard Knocks" will bring to his team and their rebuilding project.

"They're not going to teach us to run Cover 2, or an outside zone play," Philbin said. "We're not not going to tell them how to film a TV show."

"Hard Knocks" will make its season debut on Aug. 7 at 10 p.m.


Short takes

*Mets radio broadcaster Howie Rose got pretty emotional Friday night when the team broke a 51-year jinx. Here was his call: "Swung on and missed! Strike three! He's done it! Johan Santana has pitched a no-hitter, in the eight-thousand and twentieth game in the history of the New York Mets. They finally have a no-hitter, and who better to do it than Johan Santana." Gary Cohen made the call on the TV side, and SNY will rebroadcast the game in its entirety Monday night at 7:30.

*Brad Riter, the former WGR and WECK radio talker, now has a daily podcast at Riter is always worth a listen.