There are a ton of glaring issues with the National Football League that commissioner Roger Goodell should be focusing on right now, and HBO’s “Ballers,” is not one of them.
Premiering its second season on Sunday night (July 17), the NFL-themed “Entourage”-type of show features fictional football players drinking, partying, being careless with money, doing drugs and being unfaithful. But thanks to sports manager Spencer Strasmore, charmingly played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, these talented yet obnoxiously foolish boys are kept on the straight and narrow.
The best part of “Ballers” –half-hour summer filler for HBO — is that it has the clearance to use real NFL team names. And the only reason to tune in other than to see Johnson strut around Miami in killer suits and dramatically take off his sunglasses before each scene, is to see real players make surprise cameos.
During Season 1, viewers got to see DeSean Jackson, Antonio Brown, Jason Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz and Julian Edelman pop up on the series, and Roger Goodell apparently has a problem with that. While appearing on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike,” executive producer Mark Wahlberg says, “The first season of the show, the only call that I was getting was from guys like Roger Goodell saying ‘you can’t do this,’ and various owners in the league.”
It’s a shame that this is the kind of thing that makes Goodell stop what he’s doing and pick up the phone with concern. He apparently cares more about how a fictional series portrays football players than the real lives of his NFL athletes. Where was this phone call when Goodell first saw the Ray Rice footage? Has Goodell called up any of his retired players to see how they’re doing after dangerously playing for years with diagnosed concussions? How in the world is any ridiculous storyline on “Ballers” putting the NFL in a worse light than watching former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez get charged with murder?
What happens on “Ballers” is much less incriminating than anything we see in real life, and Wahlberg tries to point that out. “We’re saying is it’s actually a good thing for the league and for the players because hopefully you get the word out there with the crazy stuff and the financial side of it,” Wahlberg says. “We’ll hopefully get these guys to realize they gotta be more careful with what they do with their money.”
If Goodell is worried that players appearing on a TV show is a distraction, does that mean athletes should cut out all filmed endorsements and commercials? No way. Because that money goes into the NFL’s pocket. The man who raked in $34.1 million in 2014, and who’s in charge of a league that made $12 billion in 2015 alone, has bigger fish to fry than stewing over the effect of having a few players say three words on a summertime TV series.
Wahlberg isn’t concerned. “We want to make sure the key is to make it as authentic as possible no matter how outrageous it gets,” he says. “We always surround ourselves with real guys. Because the show is so accurate, that’s why you get guys like Ndamukong Suh, Terrell Suggs is on the show as well this year, Jarvis Landry, you got a lot of guys and not to mention countless Patriots. I can’t say who it is or what they’re doing yet because it’s a surprise and I don’t want to spoil the finale, but guys know that we make sure that we make it real.”
So far, the characters on “Ballers” aren’t getting charged with rape or domestic violence. Perhaps, Goodell should focus on stopping these kind of real life situations within his league instead.
“Ballers” Season 2 premieres on Sunday, July 17, at 10:01 p.m. ET/PT on HBO