Few shows are as hyper-focused on masculinity as “Ballers.” The Stephen Levinson-created HBO comedy looks at life as a professional football player — and what happens when you stop playing. While ostensibly an ensemble, the show’s ensemble is led by Dwayne Johnson, whose portrayal of financial manager Spencer Strasmore provides unique insight into the pride and power that drives a certain type of man.
In the Season 2 premiere “Face of the Franchise,” Spencer’s clients tackle negotiating new contracts — in the case of Ricky (John David Washington) — and the realization that their new gig might not be as stable as promised, unfortunately for Charles (Omar Benson Miller).
But really what matters is this…
Your prototypical baller will typically devote an equal split of his time to professional baller-ing and personal baller-ing. But in “Face of the Franchise,” Spencer is focused on his career — though his choices are influenced by some very personal beefs.
It might not be baller to admit to your weaknesses, the way that Spencer does when asked to not only speak in public at the opening of Suh Casa but do some press. But at least Spencer is funny about it — “I make Marshawn Lynch sound like John F. Kennedy” — and also does as Mr. Anderson (Robert Schiff) suggests and “mans up” to appear on a new talk show hosted by Jay Glazer (who for the record thinks he is baller, but is clearly not).
However, nothing de-balls you like encountering an old enemy, in this case in the form of Andre (Andy Garcia), a much more impressive baller/agent who leaves Spencer feeling insecure. Perhaps because he was his former agent, Andre knows just how to jab Spencer — which proves to be a savvy lead-up to Spencer and rival player Terrell Suggs going at each other on Glazer’s show, first with some casual trash talk, then with some actual violence.
It’s decidedly non-baller to lose your cool, especially on live TV. True baller-ism does not involve full-body tackles (unless they are in the context of your professional wrestling career). However, in the end run Spencer takes that moment of humiliation and transforms it into baller fuel: His decision to take down Andre’s empire, one client at at time.
While Spencer’s pronouncement that he’s going to take down Andre comes with all the self-confidence you might expect from the most ultimate of ballers, it’s all talk at this point. That being said, we can’t wait to see what happens next. You’re only as baller as who you ball up against, after all, and Andre looks like a formidable challenge. But as the Rock might say (multiple times): “Ball on hard.”
“Ballers” airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO.