A nation of dudes wiped off their dried up Entourage spittle and tuned in to the premiere of HBO’s Ballers, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Spencer Strasmore, a retired Miami Dolphins player turned financial advisor. Broke athletes, with a side of tits, is what it is, and it’s likely to be every football lover’s new fix, even if it’s not that good.
Money is the motive on this series that’s clearly swimming with Entourage DNA (it’s executive produced by Mark Wahlberg). The gist: washed up NFL players have it rough. Women are likely to serve mostly as accessories and playthings here (or, in this episode, “funeral hoes” and “hot snatch”), all under the guise that this is the real world. It’s clear from the first scene when a supremely buff (like, seriously) The Rock wakes up shirtless next to a naked woman (a reporter) and chomps on a pill. And when Spencer’s NFL buddy Rodney Slater dies in a brutal car crash on the highway while arguing with his side chick. And when Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) bangs a “bottle service girl” in a club bathroom. Wishful thinking that this will, in future episodes, be balanced with the stories of unsung women executives, wives and reporters?
If there’s any appeal for women sports lovers, it’s that Ballers deals with the tragedy of NFL players being penniless for real—a phenomenon that’s not a surprise to anyone who watched ESPN’s special, 30 for 30: Broke. When ex-player Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller) comes home to tell his wife he landed a job at a car dealership, they’re ecstatic as hell that he’s able to bring in money. Rodney, meanwhile, left behind no will or life insurance for his son and widow, played by Letoya Luckett (who’s had a pretty impressive post-Destiny’s Child acting run). At Rodney’s funeral, she tells Spencer to “go out there and figure your shit out.”
That “shit” is primarily Ricky Jerret, a big-headed problem child who ends up getting cut from the Packers before wisely linking up with Spencer and turning his life around, starting with a Dolphins contract. Spencer says to Ricky, “You keep acting like a little kid, when it’s done, and you’re done, you’re gonna be broke and miserable.” Whether it’s worth it to keep watching depends on your faith in the storyline, your tolerance for mid-level acting and your thirst for The Rock, whose main job is brokering deals while being a calm hardbody. He’s obviously the real eye candy.
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Image via HBO