Ballers Recap: Me and the Boys

By
Dwayne Johnson and Rob Corddry in Ballers. Photo: HBO
Ballers
Show
Ballers
Episode Title
Raise Up
Season
1
Episode
2
Editor’s Rating
3/5

It’s kind of fun watching men act like petty, little beeyotches.

As the second episode of Ballers, aptly titled “Raise Up,” unfolded, we saw how men turn petulant once another man steps over the line (and, usually, on their toes). You almost get the sense that the show is slowly revealing how the sports industry is mostly swarming with men-children, brawny, spoiled brats who immediately get vindictive (and vulnerable) when their egos get a slight bruise.

The Rock’s Spencer Strassmore has been kicked in the ass too much by life to worry about small things like that. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by knuckleheads who still feel the need to swing their dicks around to show who’s The Man, whether it’s his boss Joe, who pathetically thinks that acting like a complete ass is how a businessman must conduct himself (we’ll discuss that in great detail later), or Reggie, the old friend of young football star — and Spencer’s new client — Vernon Littlefield, who sees Spencer as a threat. “Now, why don’t you go over there and step the fuck off before I make a scene,” Reggie tells Spencer, perhaps the most bitch-ass thing I’ve ever heard anyone say, period. No wonder Spencer just smiled and played it off — drama queens like Reggie aren’t worth the slapping time.

Of course, the audience knows that Spencer’s motives are on the up-and-up. He wants to manage the money of his clients and also serve as their unofficial mentor, steering them in the right path so they don’t end up broke, miserable, and starting from scratch like he did. Unfortunately, right-hand man Reggie doesn’t see it like that. Still smarting from when Spencer gave Vernon a $300,000 loan “behind my back” (since it was a business transaction between Vernon and Spencer, a transaction Vernon requested in the first place, I fail to see what he has to do with any of it), he’s afraid Spencer is going to tell Vernon to ditch his mooching friends and quit frivolously spending money (which Spencer does, and rightfully so). Near the end of the episode, Spencer drags Vernon away from an expensive lunch with his collection of family and friends and gives him one of his patented, cautionary monologues to make him see the light:

“When I signed my first contract, I was the pride of Bethlehem. The very next day, half of Pennsylvania had their hands out, and anybody who did anything nice for me expected that they were going to get a piece of what I got, what I earned. And you know what I did? I hooked up every last one of them until I was damn near broke. There are never enough pieces to go around. No matter how much you give them, they’re always gonna want more. You wanna take care of people who are closest to you, then take care of you first. That’s what I’m gonna help you do.”

I’m starting to think the Rock is going to give one of these in every episode.

Anyway, Vernon sees things his way and officially signs Spencer as his financial manager. Of course, drama queen Reggie is still his lieutenant.

Meanwhile, Ricky has to deal with a prickly (and prickish) individual of his own now that he’s a player with the Dolphins. It turns out another player has his prized “18” digits and Ricky is willing to pay homeboy a lot of scratch to get it back. He even puts the “18” good-luck chain his girlfriend gave him as a present on the table. (Then again, she did buy it on his black card.) But the dude, who appears to be kind of bitter that Ricky is part of the team, turns him down. We eventually learn that the number does have some sentimental value for Ricky, as we see him back at his place looking at a framed photo of (I assume) his old man, rocking a jersey with “81” emblazoned on the front, holding a young Ricky.

While Ricky is, at the moment, friendless on the team (the waterboy played by Everybody Hates Chris star Tyler James Williams doesn’t mind talking to him, though), he may have his old pal Charles back playing with him, if suave recruiter Larry Seifert has his way. He visits Charles back at Tropical Chevrolet and actually buys a truck off him this time. His also tries to convince Charles that he should be back on the field. While Charles downplays wanting to get back into the game, it does seem evident that civilian life is bumming him out. However, he appears to be a little self-conscious about being too burly to play pro ball again. And to make sure we understand that he’s fat, the writers have him smashing his living-room coffee table when he and his wife lie on it. As they say in the biz, nothing creates instant yuks than when a fat guy breaks some furniture!

Well, so far, Ballers has proven that the boys’ club of professional sports is just that. While women may be around to mostly stroke their egos (among other things), it’s the guys who actually end up acting catty. (Fortunately, the female characters weren’t reduced to butt-bald-naked eye candy this week.) This show is amusingly making it look like it’s not the injuries that permanently pain these manly, manly men. No — it’s all the hurt feelings.

SOME STRAY THOUGHTS

  • Even though I love Rob Corddry, his Joe is a woefully written character. He’s such an Ari Gold knockoff, I almost expect there will be an episode where he’ll be at home binge-watching Entourage. The man is a pitiful compendium of stereotypically douche-y behavior, right down to his queer-baiting wisecracks (“Would you mind if I took you in my mouth?”), his multiple fantasy-football teams, and his storied antics (apparently, when he gets drunk, he doesn’t mind hitting on 70-year-olds). It’s like his idea of how to act like a man is even more askew than the other bratty boys in tonight’s episode. I’ve read that Joe will desperately try to make himself a player in Spencer’s world in future episodes, hanging with the pros, and hopefully getting some groupie love. 
  • In last week’s pilot, Spencer referred to Reggie as “Fat Reggie.” Apparently, dude lost a lot of weight between episodes.
  • A quick note about that opening-title sequence: It’s corny! I don’t know if it’s the Lil Wayne and Drake song they use or the less-than-stellar title graphics, or the stock footage, which looks like outtakes from 1st & Ten, another mediocre HBO show whose memory this show haunts. But it could’ve been edgier.