Ballers: Episode 3 Recap

Partying on a yacht. Selling used cars.

Ballers continues to highlight the contrasts that lurk under the surface in the world of pro football.

As a former NFL player who is now a financial advisor, I can’t personally comment on this particular type of — how would you describe it, “corporate event”? — but this one sure looked like a blast. A house party on Star Island and a yacht is certainly impressive to potential clients, but it might not be the most fiscally responsible recruitment tactic.

Episode 3 (“Move the Chains”) shows a side of football and professional sports that is very real, but commonly over-glamorized. Parties like these aren’t uncommon, but as with any major financial decision, I would strongly advise against choosing a financial manager based upon the kind of party they throw. Would you select a realtor based on his taste in Champagne?

From a financial advisor’s perspective, the decision goes both ways. I don’t only look for potential clients who have lots of money. Reading the person and the situation is just as important. It’s my job to analyze if I am a good fit for the client and if the client is a good fit for me. Finding clients is similar to finding investments: the risk has to be worth the reward. If I’m looking at a potential client, I have to gauge whether they will be worth the hassle. Athlete or not, if I’m being paid to give advice but my advice is going to be ignored, maybe the partnership is not working out.

In Episode 3, we continue to see the struggle between Reggie (the childhood friend of NFL star Vernon) and Spencer (the Rock’s character who plays the ex-pro-athlete-turned-financial-manager). Spencer continues to mishandle the situation. Their relationship is getting worse and worse. The two obviously have a misunderstanding as to who has the best intentions for Vernon. But it is Spencer’s job as financial manager to maintain clear communication with both Reggie and Vernon. In the end, it is Spencer’s name on the paperwork, not Reggie’s. This is a really common situation in this world; sometimes the person with the most influence isn’t even the client. If it is important to Vernon that Reggie remained involved, then it should be important to Spencer to find a role for Reggie. Problem is, there’s really nothing for Reggie to do — he can’t sell stock, he can’t research mutual funds and he can’t plan for retirement. Spencer shouldn’t feel threatened at all, but he should be more clever. Spencer should be trying his hardest to give Reggie the biggest participation trophy he can find. Making Reggie feel important and useful won’t be easy but for Spencer it’s more critical, right now, than any stock price.

My favorite segment of the entire episode lasted about 20 seconds. It occurred when Vernon sat down with Charles Greane (the former pro who now works as a car salesman) and asked Greane about his retirement. Greane couldn’t hide his embarrassment as he admitted that he was struggling to find a role now that he was no longer a professional athlete.

I’ve covered this theme before in a couple of my other articles, but the idea of lost identity is something I’ve struggled with as well. When I finished playing, I had to try to transform my identity as an athlete, which I had built for the past 15 years. Beginning when I started playing football in third grade, the sport has consumed my life. This identity grew exponentially once I left for college. I succeeded on the field. People praised me for it. I loved the game. I was “Tyler Horn, the football player.” The phrase “ball is life” became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Not everyone who retires gets to continue using his NFL persona on ESPN, FOX, CBS or the NFL Network. That’s only a select few guys. So when Charles Greane, Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowl O-lineman, becomes a used car salesman, he has to completely deconstruct everything he has known about himself off the field. Greane the football player does not get to carry that persona into his next career. Sure, having the NFL on your resume is an excellent addition, but it is not the same as suiting up on Sundays and having the camaraderie of a football locker room.

What’s underneath the helmet and football pads? That’s what Greane and many real life athletes have to face when transitioning to the workforce.

Ballers continues to do a good job of mixing the glamorization of professional football with the brutal realities of the NFL lifestyle that aren’t often publicized. Life isn’t a 24/7 yacht party. No matter how great of a player you may be, you will eventually have to hang up your cleats. This is a life lesson that Vernon Littlefield will have to face at some point. Can he learn it before the party’s over?

Stay tuned for my weekly recaps each Monday.

Tyler Horn is a former NFL player turned financial advisor. Click here for the Episode 1 and Episode 2 recaps.