5 June 2018

Balling and bawling: Ballers S4, now streaming

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson spent the first two seasons trying to be the big dog in the yard of action-sports-comedy series Ballers (2015-current; Seasons 1-4 are available on Showmax). His character Spencer Strasmore has put his NFL playing days behind him to become an agent.

But the show is about way more than just on-the-field action, as Dwayne tells people.com: “It’s about so many layers of life we all can relate to: drive, success, failure, love, love loss, indulgence, life lessons we all learn over time and the cherry on top is we also get to pull the curtain back to reveal the real-life hardships and achievements of some of the greatest athletes in the world.”

HBO's Ballers S1-3 is on Showmax

Image: HBO

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And those real-life hardships sting Spencer, his bestie business partner Joe (Rob Corddry), their clients and their favourite troublemaker star client Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) throughout Season 3.

Dwayne and John David (who is actor Denzel Washington’s son) have both played American football at college level and know all about the pitfalls. Seasons 1 and 2 were all about that – groupies, mistresses, blowing millions on houses, fast cars, enough bling-bling jewellery to blind a person… you name the excess and it was there.

“I literally dreamed of having Spencer’s life when I was in high school and at university,” says Dwayne, who went on to wrestle in the WWE as The Rock. “One singular goal was to make it in the NFL, provide a great life for myself and my family and like all pro athletes who grew up struggling, to make ends meet. I never made it to the NFL, not even close, so that’s why Spencer is so close to my heart. But I did eventually buy my mom her first house!”

The big bang

Thing is, when you’re like Ricky and you’re cocky, arrogant, wild, excessive and think that the world revolves around you, it never does. John David tells Men’s Journal that “Growing up I saw how people treated me differently when they knew who my father was, even the stuff I did on the field. Sometimes I’d rush for 100 yards and the headline would be, ‘Denzel’s son runs for 100 yards.’ It was never about me as me.”

Season 3 is a huge wake-up call for star athlete Ricky. He’s got no team after annoying his previous coaches and them cutting him from the squad while he’s on holiday. He’s got no money in the bank after gambling away $2 million because he’s waiting for his lucky roll on the craps table. And he’s got no girlfriend after his Season 2 cheating scandal hit papers. What he does have is a lawsuit after he goes into the wrong house and hits a teenager, thinking that his victim was an intruder in his house. Ricky has gone literally from hero to zero in the space of a season break.

Stadium showdown

While Ricky is fighting his battles (including a mental condition that could ruin his career), Spencer is struggling to keep his head above water himself. Spence and Joe have been trying to outgrow their jobs and start their own management consultancy where they can give their clients “hands on” help – and given that bankrupt Spencer knows what not to do with his money, his clients listen.

The problem is that his bosses have also been listening and have been keeping tabs on him… including his plans to jump ship and help move an NFL team to Oakland and fill his bank account along the way. That plan is going to blow up in Spencer’s face when his bosses whisper in the ears of some very influential people on the NFL governing board and throw Spencer to the sharks.

The Anderson Sports Management bosses also make sure that Spencer is the most hated man in the company when his team is “strategically downsized” ahead of a multinational office upgrade that includes opening a London branch. Spencer’s watershed moment comes when he actually gets pretty sound advice from the one man who isn’t qualified to give it: Ricky. He tells his troubled agent Spencer, “You’ve blown up your entire client list chasing global domination.”

With almost no job, no money and no friends, you’d think that Spencer’s season couldn’t get any worse. Except it does – he’s got to see a doctor about his concussion-related injuries from his NFL days. And to add insult to injury, his babymaker isn’t working like it should, so starting a family could also be off the cards. Low blow, guys. Low! Blow!

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