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Behind the Scenes: Chicago Bears Set to Star in HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ 2024

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American Football

The Chicago Bears will be featured this preseason on Hard Knocks, HBO’s acclaimed documentary-style series co-produced by NFL Films. Previously one of 10 teams never spotlighted in the series since its inception in 2001, the Bears will now be in the limelight.

Hard Knock Bears

The Bears, along with the Broncos and Saints, were among the three teams eligible to be selected by the league for the 2024 edition of the show if no other team volunteered. Teams often resist participating in the offseason version, viewing it as a distraction during training camp. However, the NFL has a clause in their contract with HBO that allows them to mandate a team’s participation based on specific criteria:

1) The team does not have a new head coach.

2) The team has not made the playoffs in the past two seasons.

3) The team hasn’t been on “Hard Knocks” in the past decade.

The five-episode series will debut on Tuesday, August 6, at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and will also be available for streaming on Max, with new episodes airing each Tuesday through September 3.

“‘Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Chicago Bears’ will provide our passionate fans around the world the opportunity to experience this unique and critical time in the history of our franchise,” Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren stated.

At the Annual League Meeting in March, Bears chairman George McCaskey expressed his hope that another team would volunteer for Hard Knocks. However, now the Bears find themselves back in the spotlight.

The Bears’ preseason schedule includes four games, starting with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Houston Texans on August 1. Two days later, three beloved former Bears—Devin Hester, Steve McMichael, and Julius Peppers—will be officially enshrined in Canton during the Hall of Fame ceremonies. The Bears will also face the Bills in Buffalo, the Bengals in Chicago, and the Chiefs in Kansas City to round out their preseason schedule.

Despite starting 0-4 and losing quarterback Justin Fields for five games, the Bears played strong football toward the end of the 2023 season and briefly flirted with playoff contention.

Standout Personas

No storyline will be more captivating than that of Caleb Williams.

The rookie quarterback, selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, could be the franchise quarterback the Bears have long sought. Remarkably, Chicago is the only team in NFL history never to have a 4,000-yard passer, and Williams might change that in his first year.

He’ll have an abundance of weapons at his disposal.

The Bears’ front office revamped their offensive skill positions this offseason. They traded away quarterback Justin Fields, allowed wide receiver Darnell Mooney to leave in free agency, drafted Williams, traded for star wide receiver Keenan Allen, signed running back D’Andre Swift, and drafted wide receiver Rome Odunze.

The immensely talented Williams and his skilled receiving corps—DJ Moore, Allen, and Odunze—will be a central storyline in Lake Forest, Illinois, this summer. With a potentially playoff-caliber roster, watching Williams grow as a leader during training camp and preseason games promises to be compelling, especially given the immediate pressure he faces, comparable to that of any No. 1 overall pick since Andrew Luck in 2012.

Past of Hard Knock 

The series delves deep into the storylines surrounding a chosen team, providing insider access to their training camp and delivering an insightful and engaging product.

Last year, the news of the Jets’ participation broke on July 12. In 2022, the Lions were selected on March 28. The Cowboys’ selection in 2021 was announced on July 2.

In 2020, the Rams and Chargers volunteered to participate, with the announcement coming on April 7. The Raiders were chosen for the 2019 series on June 11, and the Browns’ selection in 2018 was revealed on May 17.

Meanwhile, the Giants are set to appear in a new version of the documentary on July 2. This iteration differs from the usual “offseason” version, focusing instead on behind-the-scenes footage from the end of the 2023 regular season leading up to the summer.

Read more: Which NFL Teams Made Smart Free Agency Plays & Trades This Off-Season?

A lifelong sports enthusiast with a recent interest in technology, Web3, and cryptocurrency. Every weekend you can find me watching football(soccer) and keeping up to date with stocks and crypto. Writing about the things I love and hopefully painting a picture for the reader.

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Baseball

Yankees’ Trio of Excellence: Judge, Gil, and Soto Shine in May

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Yankees playing baseball

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and starting pitcher Luis Gil dominated in May, earning them well-deserved accolades.

Monday morning, Judge was honored as the AL Player of the Month, while Gil earned both AL Rookie and Pitcher of the Month awards.

Judge’s Explosive May: A Historic Performance

After a lackluster April, Aaron Judge exploded in May, batting .361 with a 1.397 OPS, bolstered by a .479 on-base percentage. He also hit 15 home runs in 30 games, putting him on a 162-game pace of 81 home runs.

Judge’s May surge was both impressive and incomprehensible. He consistently barreled the baseball with a frequency rarely seen in MLB history. Over 97 at-bats in May, Judge posted a barrel percentage of 47.8 percent. In other words, nearly half of his batted balls were barreled up. This level of precision is extraordinary.

For context, during his record-breaking 2022 season with 62 home runs, Judge’s highest monthly barrel percentage was 32.3 percent. In his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign, his peak was 36.1 percent in September. The MLB league average for barrel percentage is over seven percent.

Judge’s blend of power and plate discipline in May was remarkable. Katie Sharp noted that Judge is one of only four players in MLB history to record over 25 extra-base hits and draw over 22 walks in a calendar month, joining legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, and Jimmie Foxx. Judge and Ty Cobb (in 1921) hold the record for most extra-base hits in May, with 26.

The turnaround from Judge’s tepid April to his scorching May was remarkable. At the start of May, Judge was tied for 60th in the league in WAR. By the end of the month, he was first in all of baseball, a meteoric rise in just 31 days. Judge now leads the league in home runs, slugging percentage, wRC+, and walk rate.

In terms of wRC+, where 100 is the league average, Judge posted a 282 wRC+ in May. The next highest was Jose Ramirez at 195.

Was it one of the best months of baseball ever? Not exactly. Babe Ruth posted a higher OPS in July 1920, and Barry Bonds had nearly five better months between 2001 and 2004. However, it could be argued that it was Judge’s best month ever, surpassing his final month of 2017 and any month in 2022. It was a special month by a special player, perhaps deserving even more appreciation than it has received.

Kicking off June, Judge is already 4-for-6 with a home run, three walks, and three runs scored. We might be back here in a month for another chat about his incredible performance.

2 in 1 Gil

Luis Gil received his first career Pitcher of the Month award, becoming the first Yankee to earn the honor since reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole won it last April. Gil also joins an elite group as the fifth pitcher in MLB history, and the fourth in the AL, to win both the Pitcher and Rookie of the Month awards in the same month. He follows the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker (August 2014), the Rays’ Chris Archer (July 2013), the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson (May 2011), and the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis (June 2003).

Over six starts, the right-hander went unbeaten with a 6-0 record and an impressive 0.70 ERA (3 ER/38.2 IP). He allowed just 14 hits, issued 12 walks, and struck out 44 batters, resulting in a 0.67 WHIP and a .109 opponents’ batting average, averaging 10.24 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. The 26-year-old led the Majors in wins, opponents’ average, and WHIP, ranked second in ERA and innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.

Gil’s standout performance included a career-high 8.0 innings pitched on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing just one run on two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. This dominant start lowered his ERA to 1.99, a significant improvement from the 4.01 mark at the beginning of May.

On May 18, the rookie struck out 14 batters over 6.0 innings, setting a Yankees’ rookie record, surpassing the previous record of 13 strikeouts by Orlando Hernández on August 13, 1998. During this game, Gil recorded seven consecutive strikeouts from the fourth through the sixth inning.

Gil pitched at least 6.0 innings and allowed no more than one run in all six of his starts in May, joining Steve Kline (1972) as the only pitchers in Yankees history to achieve this feat in six consecutive starts. Overall, he is only the 14th pitcher since 1901 under the age of 26 to make at least six consecutive starts of 6.0 innings while allowing no more than one run.

Back-to-back with Soto 

On the same day Aaron Judge and Luis Gil received their monthly honors for May, outfielder Juan Soto was named American League Player of the Week.

This marks Soto’s second Player of the Week award this season and the fifth of his career.

In six games last week, the lefty dominated, hitting .435 with three homers, nine RBIs, three triples, four walks, and seven runs scored. He posted an impressive 1.000 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage.

Soto capped off his stellar week with two home runs against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, including the go-ahead blast in the ninth inning.

For the season, Soto is slashing .322/.417/.614 with 17 home runs, 53 RBIs, 46 runs scored, and 40 walks, making a strong case for the AL MVP.

Read more: Inside MLB’s Bat-Speed Revolution: What We’ve Learned So Far

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