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Ballers - Make Believe and I Hate New York - Review

There's a lot of unwelcome news and unpleasant developments for the cast of Ballers lately. In "Make Believe" and "I Hate New York", we see the embodiment of getting what one wants, only discover that it comes with strings.


For Spencer, the last two episodes have been about him fighting for funding and land to build a world-class football stadium in Las Vegas. We haven't spent much time in Vegas, though, as he's been dealing with things from ASM headquarters and then spending almost an entire episode in New York. At headquarters, he was able to use virtual reality (VR) technology to convince Wayne Hastings to devote both money and land to the project; and while that worked beautifully, Spencer is starting to realize that this project could put him at odds with the NFL and his core clients, who are players within the league.

Spencer also went to New York to try to get a large investment from ASM's parent company, Anderson Financial. We're used to thinking of Anderson as being Brent Anderson, the sometimes-crotchety partner at ASM, but in "I Hate New York", we learn that he's actually the younger brother of Julian Anderson, CEO. While Julian is clearly intelligent and aware of ASM's workings, he's less than impressed with the initial pitch. In fact, he's pretty rude to Spencer, Brent, and Joe, who leave in a flurry of f-bombs and middle fingers. However, Julian is a savvy businessman and realize the potential money to be made in the project, and he offers to buy in. Spencer and Brent don't want to work with him, though, and in a drunkenly defiant moment, Brent says he intends to sell off everything he has (including ASM!) and go all in on the stadium deal. You can tell Spencer's got some reservations about that.

Meanwhile, Charles is straddling a vicious workplace conflict between the Miami Dolphins head coach, Larry, and the owner, Siefert. Charles's wife, Julie, invites them over to dinner to hopefully talk through the disputes, but instead they witness a physical altercation at the dinner table. Siefert forces Charles to deliver the news to Larry that he's fired, and hires Kisan Teague - knowing that if things go sideways, he can blame everything on Charles. When Charles admits to Julie that he's thinking of quitting, however, she gets upset with him. They end the episode in a rocky place.

Ricky's not getting great news, either. Although it looks like the baby mama is gone, he's still got to deal with wandering into the wrong house and punching a kid that he thought was an intruder. While we initially chalked this up to stress, Ricky is actually dealing with Post-Concussion Syndrome from taking too many hits on the field. He's keeping things quiet for now, but his doctor recommended laying off the heavy physical activity for a while, and this could seriously affect his brewing deal with the New England Patriots, as well as his future in the NFL.

And he's not the only one in trouble with the league; Vernon's ownership in a cannabis company called High Powered raised enough NFL eyebrows to merit a surprise drug test. Even though he claims to have been using cannabinoids to aid in recovery rather than getting high, his results still come back positive for drug usage, and he ends up with a 4-game suspension. The good news, for now, is that Joe has been able to convince Vernon to invest in a VR company, rather than High Powered, and that technology could yield some really good returns in the future.


I'll admit, I have the same question about Spencer that several characters are pointing out: why the sudden push to start a new team in Vegas when he's supposed to be helping players handle their finances? Even though he chatted with Joe about it at one point, that explanation feels thin to me. I wonder if the show plans to address it more forcefully down the line, and what will happen if this deal actually goes through. I was a lot more interested in the show when it was about sports financial management (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write).

Spencer's diversion has given Joe a chance to shine a bit, though, and I'm really enjoying that. While he's hardly the level-headed professional you'd expect from a financial manager, he has excellent rapport with the players and he's fielding a lot of the players' BS without losing it - something he used to have to rely on Spencer to do. Joe hasn't been a major focus this season, but I think we're witnessing some incremental growth, and I hope the show continues to develop Joe's character.

Also, have you noticed that the Cowboys' owner doesn't have an actual name? In my head, that actor will always be Shooter McGavin (his real name is Christopher McDonald, but Shooter is his name in "Happy Gilmore" and it was an iconic role for him). But he's been in several episodes this season. He's sometimes referred to as "boss man" and other nicknames, but at this point it seems that they've deliberately left him unnamed. I wonder what that's about!

And finally, I wanted to point out a moment of genuine levity in this show. The season has been a little less clever and funny lately, but I genuinely laughed out loud at Vernon's friend, who tried to dispose of edibles by consuming them and ended up super-stoned in front of the NFL drug tester. That whole scene, with Vernon's friend struggling to find the sunglasses perched on his head and the "I'm a grower, not a shower" line, was a high point for me, comedically speaking. This show is categorized as a comedy, but sometimes the funny moments are sorta buried. I was pleased with this one.

Did any scenes leave you chuckling lately? Let us know in the comments!


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