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The Little Mermaid Visits the Rams on ‘Hard Knocks’

Ariel, Goff fails, and In-N-Out in a golf cart on Episode 4


Welcome to Los Angeles, where the weather is sunny, the people are gorgeous, and the new NFL team is mediocre. Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Los Angeles Rams is here, and to celebrate the 11th season of the new greatest show on turf, we’ll be breaking down each episode with what you need to know.


Episode MVP

Did you think I was going to stop making Will Hayes mermaid jokes? No? Glad we’re on the same page.

This week, our favorite Rams defensive lineman was paid a visit by a fan who dressed up as the protagonist of The Little Mermaid and held a “Mermaids [Heart] Will Hayes #95” sign. “Oh my God, yes. Fucking Ariel came out to see me,” said Hayes. “We ain’t never seen no dinosaurs show up to practice. Did see a mermaid, though.” Having confirmed the first of his two well-noted beliefs, Hayes moved on to Dino Quest, which is a dinosaur exhibit at a museum, seemingly for children, that looks like a Rainforest Cafe sans food. There, Hayes parried arguments in favor of the existence of dinosaurs.

Brittany, Hayes’s persistent Dino Quest tour guide, talked to Hayes about fossils and skeletons, to which he responded, “70 million years ago. [A T-Rex skull] was just sitting there the whole time? … You don’t see how ridiculous that sounds?”

“That’s a rock,” Hayes said after being shown a dinosaur egg.


Most Interesting Thing We Learned

TIL: Rio de Janeiro is a country, at least according to special teams coordinator John Fassel. During this week’s episode, Fassel directed a round of a game loosely based on Jeopardy!. The category that led to this particularly troubling tidbit was titled “C-H-I-M-I-C-H-A-N-G-A,” and required players to correctly spell the names of various Mexican foods. After players misspelled “fajita” and “lasagna,” which, according to my deep research, is definitely not a Mexican food, rookie wide receiver Duke Williams was asked to spell “quesadilla.” The hints, given along with each word, for quesadilla, were as follows:

Country of Origin: Rio de Janeiro

Definition: A Mexican Hot Pocket.

Sentence: “Knock it off Napoleon and make yourself a dang _______.”

Williams, unflinchingly, spelled the word right.


Your “We’re in L.A.!” Reminder of the Week

My college roommate worked a campus job that allowed him access to a golf cart. For four years, he joked that we were going to ride it from our campus in D.C. across the Key Bridge to Virginia, just for some McDonald’s. This is something that we never did, partly because we eventually discovered Uber and partly because I don’t actually enjoy McDonald’s. This week, members of the Rams’ coaching staff did what I never had the guts to do and drove a golf cart to the nearest In-N-Out to order $76 worth of food.

The driver, defensive backs coach Brandon Fisher, asked the drive-through attendant if they were the first people in a golf cart she had served that night. She responded, “Tonight? Yes. Since I’ve worked here? No.”

Why do I let everybody else have all the fun?


Arbitrary New Character of the Week

Rock Gullickson, the Rams’ head strength and conditioning coach, is a person who I had not heard of in any capacity before this week. But, on this episode, we were given a full serving of Rock, notable for his own advanced-age strength and conditioning after 38 years of coaching; his relationship with Brett Favre, whom he worked with in the mid-2000s; and for sending players to Jeff Fisher to be cut. “You’re the reaper today,” said wide receiver Austin Hill, who was not cut in this week’s episode.

This was a valiant effort by showrunners to make another member of the staff somewhat interesting, but sorry, guys, even a slo-mo weightlifting shot didn’t make poor Rock compelling. Maybe you should persuade him to believe in mermaids.


“Athletes, They’re Just Like Us” Moment(s) of the Week

Ever wonder how quarterbacks have such perfect recall with enormous, intricate playbooks? So does Jared Goff. At practice, the top pick was fed a series of words that usually indicate a play, but in this case, were just, well, a series of words. Goff dictated the words to the huddle and had the offense start to line up before the coaches told him that he should have killed the play — you know, because there was no play to begin with.

“The Rams selected no. 16 Jared Goff with the first pick in this year’s draft. It doesn’t look like he’ll win the starting job,” narrated Liev Schreiber. Case Keenum can definitely lead a winning team, though, right?

Quote of the Week

“If he catches the ball right there, you, me, and everybody in the room is fucking fired. Fired,” said defensive coordinator and film room visionary Gregg Williams, gesturing at the red zone.

I guess there could be some pink slips coming before the season finale.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.