When I first heard that there was going to be yet another Dallas Cowboys' reality show this offseason, I was disgusted and annoyed.
The Cowboys were coming off what was widely considered one of the most disappointing seasons—if not the most disappointing—in franchise history, largely due to off-the-field distractions.
Why were the Cowboys adding yet another potential distraction to their already volatile mix, and why were they playing "game show" with valuable roster spots?
I knew at the time that, because I will watch just about anything and everything Cowboys related, I would watch the show. I also knew I would probably enjoy it, but I still just didn't understand why.
Why couldn't the Cowboys learn from Hard Knocks? Why were they again playing with fire?
Sure enough, when 4th and Long premiered this week on Spike TV, I was sitting on my couch, and to borrow an expression from ex-Cowboy wide receiver Terrell Owens, I had my popcorn ready.
And while my prediction that I would enjoy the show proved to be true, I also was surprised to find that my disgust with the idea of the show had all but vanished.
Maybe it was because I was just excited to finally have some form of football viewing back in my life, or maybe I was just showing my true Cowboys homer mentality by blindly loving anything that is associated with my favorite franchise. However, I think it was more than that.
After thinking about it, I actually believe that this show could prove to be a positive thing for the Dallas Cowboys organization.
My very first worry when I first heard of this show was that some of the off-the-field "antics" would cast the Dallas Cowboys organization in a negative light.
That was one of the biggest problems with Hard Knocks last year. Sure, it was a very well done documentary, and it was enjoyable to watch, but it made the Cowboys a little too accessible to the general public.
As a result of the show, there were doubts amongst Cowboys fans concerning then-rookie Martellus Bennett's work habits, and fans and players of other franchises suddenly had the impression that the Cowboys players and coaches were all cocky and arrogant, and that they all felt they were entitled to win a Super Bowl.
Put frankly, the "undeserved" extra attention that Dallas garnered from their participation with the reality series ticked some people off.
Now maybe this added attention hurt the Cowboys' chances in 2008 and maybe it didn't, but one thing is for certain. It sure didn't help.
An important thing to remember, however, is that 4th and Long is not a Dallas Cowboys' reality show in the same way that Hard Knocks was.
Perhaps the most obvious—and in my opinion, most important—difference is that nobody in the show is currently a part of the organization.
The only person from this show that will soon join the Cowboys organization will at best be a special teams player, and he will have to prove that he is a hard working, athletic, well disciplined, and driven individual in order for that to happen.
Put simply, if a guy is going to win this contest and join the Cowboys' 2009 training camp, it is because he is not the kind of guy that will embarrass the organization or paint them in a negative light.
How the Cowboys would be perceived wasn't my only worry though. At the end of the day, who really cares what other players, coaches, and fans think about their team.
Perhaps the biggest concern I had when I first heard of this show was the seeming willingness of Jerry Jones and company to play a game with what could end up being an important roster spot.
But let's be real for a minute.
If you are the 80th man on an 80-man roster at the start of training camp, the chances you even make the practice squad are slim, and the chances that you actually make the 53-man roster at the end of training camp is almost none.
In some kind of twisted logic, this show actually gives the Cowboys an advantage in selecting the final man for their training camp roster.
The Cowboys, through Michael Irvin and his show, were essentially able to pick 12 men to fill one slot, and then they were able to put them through an extended series of physical and mental tests to determine who can best help the team.
The absolute worst thing that can happen is that the guy they select at the end of the show comes to camp and doesn't work out.
At the end of the day, 4th and Long is a win-win.
Its a show made by people who love the Cowboys and want to help the Cowboys by finding the best possible player to fill their last roster spot. And if that's not enough, it is entertaining to boot.