For those who have been following “Ballers” Season 2, you don’t need to be told the level of baller-dom that’s been achieved over these 10 episodes. But not every day was smooth sailing for these gladiators of the game that is life, as we’ve been privileged enough to observe.
Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) struggled to make perhaps the most important decision of his entire career — picking his next, and perhaps final, deal as a player. Charles (Omar Miller) suffered a devastating blow after being cut by the team, but found new opportunities after getting a job working in the front office with Larry (Dulé Hill). Joe (Rob Corddry) was confronted by the knowledge that he was only seen as secondary to his partner.
All of those issues, of course, are secondary to the most important question, the question we’ve been asking since the season premiere…
We have, of course, previously evaluated how hard Spencer (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) balled in Episodes 1-5 — and when we last saw him, things were not looking great. Andre (Andy Garcia) was determined to ruin him while he was finally making the big play for becoming an officially licensed NFL agent, and health issues were beginning to encroach upon his ability to ball as hard as necessary to get his clients the deals they needed.
So now, we catch up, beginning with…
Episode 6: “Saturdaze”
We begin with The Rock and Jason bro-ing out the way men do… by talking about their intimacy issues. But what might have been a “Sex and the City” episode maintains some level of baller-dom thanks to some tequila shots and a quick return to what matters: getting Travis Mach (Adam Aalderks) a decent placement in the NFL draft.
The Rock’s solution proves to be pretty baller: Get a shit-talking sportscaster on Travis’ side by bringing them all together for a fun day of fishing for marlin. Unfortunately, Travis fails to embody one of the most important baller attributes — chill-ness — and gets in the face of real-life famous football person Mark Schlereth.
It’s a shame that Travis resists learning from The Rock’s example, continuing to behave like a whiny child until finally, a challenge is set and The Rock bets Mark a thousand bucks that Travis can run really, really fast, even after drinking a six-pack on a beach. It’s a nervous moment for everyone, but Travis does in fact run really, really fast and The Rock wins the bet — but declines taking Mark’s money, because that is just how baller he is. Nothing is certain in this world, but in this moment, there is triumph. And much chest-bumping.
Episode 7: “Everybody Knows”
In the previous episode, Joe had learned from Andre that The Rock was keeping secrets from him, and Joe confronts The Rock over this during a shvitz.
Once again, we find that The Rock can make any seemingly square activity so round that it balls: Witness the fact that as soon as Joe leaves The Rock alone in the steam room, a beautiful woman enters the room and asks The Rock’s permission to disrobe. (The Rock is of course a gentleman about it and says yes.)
Things between The Rock and Joe remain pissy for most of the episode, and Joe goes digging for the secrets that Andre teased him about. Meanwhile, The Rock continues to dance on the line between “unlicensed sports agent acting illegally” and “buddy mentoring his good buddy Travis” with another goodwill-making public appearance for Travis. Travis initially doesn’t do so well when challenged to call some plays by Jay Glazer. But as it does for all of us (one must hope), proximity to The Rock, plus some calming words, help him prove his ability to ball hard on the actual football field.
Joe and The Rock come to terms by the end of the episode, but we end with a much bigger issue. Even the beauty of The Rock’s peach plaid suit can’t stop Mr. Anderson (Richard Schiff) from firing The Rock after he failed his NFL registration. “Your value to me, to my company, is zero,” Mr. Anderson says. The Rock stands up and walks away with as much dignity as he can muster. But…
Episode 8: “Laying in the Weeds”
The Rock’s issues continue into the next morning, with a tequila hangover and a sad but adult goodbye to girlfriend Tracy (Arielle Kebbel), to whom vague promises are made about remaining committed to each other even as she leaves for an ESPN gig in Connecticut.
However, The Rock is undeterred! His new plan: Keep his firing a secret while he raises enough money to buy Anderson Sports Management — a plan that manages to be simultaneously ballsy and baller. This plan, unfortunately, involves borrowing money from his most trusted clients, as well as a meeting with a bank manager that’s so humiliating that it sparks memories of “Magic Mike.”
At The Rock’s draft party, they’re on pins and needles waiting to hear about Travis’s draft status, and finally The Rock swallows some baller pride (which only the best ballers are baller enough to do) and asks quasi-nemesis Terrell Suggs to put in a good word for the kid with his team. Suggs does so, and Travis is going to Baltimore! And everyone rejoices! And Suggs then tells the whole party that The Rock got fired! And… well.
A note: Yes, The Rock didn’t ball especially hard, but you know who did? Joe! Joe kind of crushed it in this episode, sticking up for The Rock whenever possible, making a ton of potato salad (the best of all deli salads) and rallying the troops of ASM with a truly impressive call to arms. Way to ball, Joe.
Episode 9: “Million Bucks in a Bag”
One of the difficulties in evaluating The Rock’s baller-dom on a week-to-week basis is that some of his least baller moments, such as when he gets super-trashed after a major personal disaster, tend to happen in between episodes. But we at least get a glimpse of the aftermath at the beginning of this episode, with The Rock’s house trashed and a strange woman naked in his shower.
But there’s still hope alive for The Rock’s buyout plan after Joe tells him that the deal between Andre and Mr. Anderson for the company won’t go through. Andre makes a big offer to him, wanting to mend fences and buy ASM so that The Rock can manage it. “I can get you anything you want,” Andre promises.
“I can get it myself,” The Rock replies. So he borrows some money from Ricky and goes directly to Anderson.
Let’s talk about the way The Rock walks into the ASM offices. On a typical day, it’s a stride of pure baller charisma — but on the day when he walks into the ASM offices carrying a leather duffle bag with a million dollars cash in it, it’s like looking directly at the sun. Its baller-ness cannot be truly quantified. It simply is, and we must deal with it.
Unfortunately, Anderson is unimpressed, and The Rock must continue to raise funds if he even has a chance of buying the company. He has confidence, as he asks another client for cash. But he also clearly knows that it’s a big ask. And that it may not work out.
Episode 10: “Game Day”
We’re pretty baller right from the beginning, as The Rock confronts Mr. Anderson with the cash as requested. Anderson changes his mind about the exact nature of the deal, but they do agree on a 51-49 ownership split, and The Rock does get an apology from Anderson for the firing.
The catch? He still needs to get his licensing issues with the NFL fixed. He finds out who filed a grievance against him — a former friend who he screwed over — and said friend has no interest in withdrawing the complaint, even after The Rock and Joe come up to Canton, Ohio to meet with him directly.
After that confrontation goes badly, The Rock is devastated on a level no baller should ever experience. “My career is over for the second time in three years,” The Rock says.
Joe knows the solution — a drug and booze-fueled strip club party! But Joe has had more baller ideas, and he ultimately gets both him and The Rock kicked out of the club. On the streets of Canton, even after an evening of hardcore indulgences, The Rock’s pain cannot be escaped.
That said, “Regrets are for pussys” is a super-baller thing The Rock declares the morning after. Okay, he also says “Let’s get out of here before I puke all over this lobby.” Less baller.
What is super-baller? The speech that The Rock gives to a group of new players, letting them know that they need to be careful about their financial decisions because someone like him could screw up their lives.
Baller-dom requires certain indefinable qualities, and what’s always important to remember is that humility is one of them. And so the humility he finds in that speech, as well as his bad night out on the town, is perhaps what brings us to the last scene: The Rock quietly checks in for the hip replacement he’s avoided all season long, facing his problems head-on.
In a season of baller moves, let us be clear: This is the most baller of them all. All of us have things in our life we want to avoid; problems we keep putting off because solving them is scary. We try to pretend that it’s fine, it’s no big deal, knowing all the long that the longer we delay, the worse things might get. Except for the true ballers, that is.
That’s because a real baller steps the hell up and faces his or her problems, and tackles them to the ground. Whether it be a rival player on the field, or a medical issue, or a friendship in trouble — they put ego and drama and all other issues aside, and they handle it. And that’s the real definition of baller-dom we come to, with this season finale. Ballers get it done. And while The Rock has some ways to go before all his problems are solved, there’s no question that right now, he’s done dodging.
Thank you, The Rock, for showing us what it means to ball. See you in Season 3.