Ballers: Season 2, Episode 9 Recap

Tyler Horn, Contributor - The Players' Tribune

“Damn Spence, I thought you was rolling in it.”

It’s amazing how this show can get so many things right. But as I’ll get to later in this recap, it still misses on a few details.

One thing that Ballers gets very right is the lure of the lavish lifestyle. Appearance is such a priority for so many athletes. Between cars, jewelry, houses and extravagant vacations, it’s easy to become jealous of who’s got what and who’s doing what. But at the end of the day, pictures on Instagram don’t define your net worth. The numbers at the bottom of your bank statement tell the real story. This week’s episode, the second-to-last of Season 2, reveals a lot about Spencer and how he let appearances destroy his net worth.

Last week we found out that Spencer is broke. And not only broke, but also jobless. Spencer was fired from ASM because he had been unable to obtain his NFLPA registration — a requirement for advising NFL players — because of a previous bad investment.

Who is Spencer Strasmore? After nearly two seasons, I’m not sure I have any idea.

To make matters worse, he’s now asking his former clients for money. And what does he want to use the borrowed money for? To buy out ASM, the firm that just fired him.

If Ballers is trying to depict Spencer Strasmore as a good financial advisor in a world of bad ones, then the show is doing a horrible job. As I watch the show, I feel torn. Is Spencer supposed to be the good guy? His actions on the show this season go against everything a good-guy financial advisor would do. Yet when his rival, Andre, makes a bid to purchase ASM, he actually lowers his offer because he deems the company less valuable without Spencer. In other words, even Spencer’s rival sees his value. So who is Spencer Strasmore? After nearly two seasons, I’m not sure I have any idea.

But there is an interesting backstory to Spencer’s bad investment. It turns out that Andre had warned Spencer that the deal was risky and told him that it was a bad idea to involve his athletes. And in fact, we find out he told Spencer that he should invest $600,000 — not $6 million. Spencer is more hard-headed than we ever knew.

I don’t read other reviews of the show, but I can’t be the only one who sees these glaring contradictions. Ballers has created a character who is a great guy, and who cares about his clients — but who stinks at his job. That describes 90% of any workforce. I’m not sure how Ballers is going to end the season, but I’m praying for some type of redemption for Spencer, because up until the last couple of episodes the show has been really good. I understand that part of the complexity of Spencer’s character is that he’s a flawed guy trying to move beyond bad decisions in his past that keep popping back up. But I find myself not able to suspend disbelief about the $6 million “mistake” — it just doesn’t seem to fit.

When guys take money from a crap team over going to a team like the Packers or the Patriots, I get it.

As for the other characters, Ricky has started to think more about his legacy than his wallet. I find the idea of legacy versus money very compelling. You only have so long to play the game, and only so much time to make as much money as possible. The NFL is so cutthroat from a business perspective that even if you sign a big contract, who knows if you’ll be able to see the whole thing through. So when guys take money from a crap team over going to a team like the Packers or the Patriots, I get it.

At the same time, though, the competitor in every athlete wants to win. You may getting paid a lot, but losing sucks. It gets old quick. There’s something about leaving a legacy that is pure. You may not like Tom Brady, but everyone has the utmost respect for that guy because of the legacy he’s created on the field. I think Ricky is starting to realize that he’s made enough money — now may be the time in his career to start thinking about his legacy.

Charles Greane is still working as a Dolphins exec, looking for undrafted free agents. Just  to be clear, that is not at all how the undrafted free agent process works at all. Actually, everything happens in about 30 minutes once the draft is over. I wrote about my experience as an undrafted free agent here (shameless plug for my article). Ballers does, however, get some parts right. The signing bonus is tiny. All an UDFA gets is an opportunity. But in the NFL, an opportunity is all you need.

Ballers continues to push boundaries of what’s realistic. The show has been dead on with so many issues over the last two years, but the second half of this season has left me torn. It’s been a very entertaining show, but I just can’t take Spencer seriously. He just has way too many flaws for me to look at him as the good-guy financial advisor. There’s one episode left this season, so maybe things will wrap up with a suggestion about where the show is headed next year.

That’s right. HBO has already picked Ballers up for a third season. I’m a fan, but I hope the season finale convinces me to get hyped for Season 3.

Check out my other Ballers recaps from Season 2 here.

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