Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

The first season of Ballers started with a car crash, and its final episode featured Dwayne Johnson’s butt. Between those two important milestones, some other stuff happened.

The show’s pilot hinted that it would basically be an Entourage focused on sports—Stephen Levinson and Mark Wahlberg are executive producers of both—but Ballers showed slightly more depth. It dealt with the consequences of being part of the NFL, physical, psychological, and monetary. Yes, of course there were tits, drugs, and ballin’ out sequences, and the show didn’t have a female character who wasn’t a girlfriend, wife, or receptionist, but Johnson did his best to turn financial manager Spencer Strasmore into more than a bulging suit smiling through the plot, and John David Washington was entertaining as mouthy veteran wide receiver Ricky Jerret. It’s in stark contrast to Entourage; never in that show’s eight seasons was Vincent Chase more than a chucklefuck actor looking for someone to tell him what to do. (While we’re at it, it’s nice to be watching a show about the camaraderie and friendship of the rich that doesn’t revolve around a bunch of hairy white boys in Los Angeles.)


Now, it’s not like Ballers required critical thinking, or even had any plot lines that weren’t wildly predictable, but the show kept it simple without insulting the viewer’s intelligence. Television focused on sports have the difficult task of catering to a general audience without dumbing everything down to the point that they lose more knowledgeable sports fans along the way. Ballers achieved acceptable marks with that. That they incorporate real sports gossip, like Adrian Peterson’s birthday party with a camel or Fred Smoot’s debaucherous boat trip, means the second season could feature more true-to-life scandals weaved into the plot. Hell, maybe the show can turn Cardinals assistant coach Jen Welter into a character whose sole objective isn’t to get fucked. Until then, we’ll have the memory of Dwayne Johnson’s candy ass to hold us over.


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