If the Dallas Cowboys were as passionate about fulfilling their potential as they are about marketing their brand on reality shows, who knows, they might’ve racked up another Super Bowl or two in the last decade. In Spike TV’s “4th and Long,” former wide receiver Michael Irvin lords over a group of 12 wannabe NFL players hoping for the big break that has seemingly passed them by. Most likely, none of these athletes –six wide receivers, six defensive backs — will make a lasting impression on the field, and nor will this series.
Premise allows that, after 10 episodes, the only man not cut by Irvin and his coaches will be invited to Cowboys training camp in the summer.Irvin, always speaking at a high volume, makes sure the competitors know they can’t let up if they’re to survive to the following week; director Brian Smith obviously takes the message literally. In the first episode, three or four scenes are of players vomiting following an exhausting workout. Moreover, the athletes not only spend all day in the aged Cotton Bowl in Dallas trying to get into football shape, they’re forced to live there as well — sleeping in the locker rooms. All part of toughing it out.
Viewers are at the mercy of the editors in determining who’s playing well and who’s not, as one missed tackle or one dropped ball could mean the end of someone’s dreams.
The footage is rather unremarkable, and the storyline isn’t near as compelling as, say, last year’s HBO series “Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Dallas Cowboys,” which offered a much more insightful look into the way a team makes decisions as it cuts players to make its opening-day roster.
To try to break up the routine, “4th and Long” each week features the arrival of a former Cowboy who offers something inspirational to the troops. However, the ploy feels more like a way to acquaint the viewer with the team’s history.
By series end, don’t be surprised to see a crawl at the bottom of the screen to buy season tickets. Those viewers who make it that far should be given freebies.