BALLERS Review: “Most Guys”

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This week’s was interesting in that it revealed a new kind of wear and tear that professional football players can deal with as they age— osteoarthritis. Yep, the relatively young Spencer Strasmore gets news from his doctor that his pill popping ways won’t solve this problem. No, the fit 40 year old probably needs hip replacement.

Last season, Ballers dug into the now well-worn exploration of football concussions. Ultimately, there was nothing wrong with Spencer from a physical standpoint. His head problems were actually psychological in nature. I never really felt satisfied by the direction the show went in that respect, but this new revelation seems promising. I always like when I learn something new, and the fact that football players sometimes have to get a procedure more consistent with someone who’s in their sixties or more was shocking. Moreover, I started to look at the rest of the episode within this context.

Dwayne Johnson in "Ballers."

For instance, remember that promising rookie prospect Travis Mack that Jason courted all the way out in The Everglades last episode? Well, in this week’s “Most Guys,” against Jason’s admonishments, Spencer decides to continue their talks with him. Mack hasn’t been drafted yet, which puts this in problematic territory. Anyway, Spencer challenges Mack to a rep-off. Spencer impressively does his routine and the cocky Mack gets off to a good start on his go. Mack, though, quickly peters off, fails, and then storms off in embarrassment. Sure, Mack needed to be properly put in his place and Spencer has a thing or two to teach him. But that moment was also about Spencer showing that he still has it against some punk kid, despite what some doctor told him.

These aren’t the only things Spencer deals with in this episode, but let’s shift for a bit to Ricky and Charles. Ricky gets a huge offer from Buffalo, which is pitched as being not too far away from City on a jet. Hmm. At a fashion show, Ricky tries to clear his head and also advises Charles to speak up for himself after being fired. Ricky also runs into his ex Bella. On this one night at least, the two are pretty amicable. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder). Bella tells Ricky Buffalo isn’t the right choice.

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There’s also a subplot with Reggie and Vernon. Reggie buys an alpaca for Vernon to try and cheer him up, only to find out that Nate got him a puppy. This storyline didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the episode, however. Charles, heeding advice from Ricky, goes to tell his former coach off, but in the process shows he still has value to a football team. Not on the field, maybe, but in the front office. Charles lands himself a new by finally standing up for himself. Armed with that confidence, Charles also stands up to a bratty rich teen that drives his car loudly around the neighborhood.

Spencer gets a call from an old friend who’s now part of the players association. Spencer seems elated, thinking he’s finally found an ally in a powerful position. Only, when the rep arrives, it’s not the sympathetic ear he expected, but someone else who wants to dig into Spencer’s past. Spencer made a questionable real estate deal with Andre, and the association wants to look into that.

It feels like Ballers has been setting a lot of things up for a while now, and this week is no exception. I’m still waiting for some of these things to really start to pay off, but I like the multiple storylines we’re getting each week. Sometimes, though, Ballers gets into trouble with this format. For instance, when Mack loses to Spencer in his rep-off, basically the next scene in that thread is Mack returning, having been humbled by Spencer and now eager to work with him. It seems that there should be an intermediate scene, where for instance Mack tries to go it alone, and fails. In any case, Ballers seems to be finding a rhythm in recent weeks.

TB-TV-Grade-B+
Season 2, Episode 5 (S02E05)
Ballers airs Sundays at 10PM on HBO

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writes about the philanthropy of billionaires and millionaires by day, and writes screenplays by night.
Twitter: @derekadeniji

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