Ballers: The money for the Las Vegas franchise may be Make Believe

Photo: Jeff Daly/HBO Acquired HBO Medium

Ballers has set the table, and all the major players are ready to discuss the Las Vegas NFL franchise. Is everyone as invested as Spencer?

Wayne Hastings Jr. (Guttenberg) needs to be sold about Anderson Sports Management (ASM) and their ability to deliver on the Las Vegas idea. With Bossman (McDonald) acting as the Dallas Cowboys trump card, however, the idea of a Las Vegas team might actually get accomplished fairly quickly on Ballers.

During their meeting, only grand ideas and platitudes exist. Hastings busts Mr. Anderson’s (Schiff) chops about his minimal contribution. It’s a clear insinuation he believes Spencer should be in charge. Bossman is completely sold on the Las Vegas franchise, and wants it to be bigger than the stadium in Dallas.

Subsequently, Spencer and Joe (Corddry) meet with Hastings in the parking lot. Hastings informs him he is not going to put in a single dollar until the other two billionaires are willing to pony up the dough. Chloe (Serinda Swan) – Spencer’s current fling – sticks up for Hastings. Business trumps boyfriend. Career over companion.

It’s clear who wears the pants in the Greane family.

Charles (Omar Benson Miller) continues to struggle with his boss, the GM of the Dolphins, Mr. Siefert (Hill). In fact, Siefert tells him he has to come in early to do salary cap, which may or may not be another move to demonstrate the little control Charles has over his situation. In steps his wife, Julie Greane (Jazmyn Simon), who absolutely controls Charles (she needs more screen time in favor of her on-screen husband).

Photo: Jeff Daly/HBO Acquired HBO Medium

Julie hatches a plan for Charles, Siefert, and the Dolphins Head Coach (Peter Berg) to hash out differences over her world famous brisket. Her approach is brilliantly passive-aggressive. First, she accidentally FaceTimes Siefert for the invite, knowing it’s more difficult to turn down the offer face to face. Next, she demonstrates her control of her household and the situation when she puts Siefert in an awkward position, by essentially ignoring his initial declination and upping her game (i.e. smiling more, being nicer, and showing him the brisket is already prepped for the night). Siefert, however, is unaware the coach will be there.

As the group sits down for dinner, neither Siefert nor the Coach are happy about the other’s presence. To demonstrate, Siefert instigates a fight by continually dishing out insults. To demonstrate his irritation, the Coach lands a solid punch and shoves the GM’s face into mashed potatoes. Julie’s plans did not work out so well, and Charles may suffer as a result. Maybe he’d be interested in a future GM position in Las Vegas?

Vernon is still in trouble.

Joe takes Vernon (Carter) and Reggie (Brown) to a virtual reality company where they do a bunch of football simulations. Vernon and Reggie are immediately impressed. Consequently, they seem to be OK with being divested from their medical marijuana endorsement. A surprise urinalysis, however, makes them regret they were ever involved in such a questionable collaboration.

Sooner or later the link to cannabis would get him. Vernon has been taking the cannabis pills, but acts like they aren’t the same as marijuana. It’s still odd to think an NFL player could be so stupid considering the league’s strict drug policies. He knows he will piss hot, and there isn’t much he can do other than delay.

Ballers has a new villain.

It’s not uncommon to think of a person in power as a villain. The way league front office employee Candace (Corinealdi) is going about it leaves little room otherwise. She previously attempted to dissuade Spencer on the Vegas expansion, and even asked if he was an enemy of the league. 

It was definitely a threat.

“Make Believe” may be the next step in her rise to villainy on Ballers, as she begins to chip away at some of Spencer’s clients in order to exert pressure against his move. Not only does she admit to foregoing the mandatory 24-hour warning for player urinalyses, but she also insinuates that she knows about trouble with Ricky (i.e. when he punched a teenager in “Ride and Die“).

Ballers brings the laughs in Make Believe.

Back to Julie. She provides what is probably the funniest inside-joke of the entire episode. If intentional, her deliberate seasoning of the brisket is a hilarious homage to the Salt Bae meme.

There were several other laughs in the episode. For instance, Terrell Suggs makes a hilarious cameo where he argues with Joe about whether or not he should sell his Apple stock. Joe is opposed, but Suggs tells Joe he’s going to physically rip off Joe’s penis, and the matter is settled.

Additionally, aside from the always crass, colorful language, Joe has a new high-tech hobby guaranteed to be humorous for many episodes. To clarify, the new VR company he linked Vernon to has provided him some VR soft-core porn. He uses it twice in the episode, and there is whipped cream involved at one point. It’s every bit as sleazy as you’d imagine. Naturally, Vernon and Reggie want their own.

Finally, the entire urinalysis scene with Vernon is laugh out loud funny. The guy conducting the exam was brilliant in a bit part. He makes no qualms about his piss expertise, and proceeds to stare directly at little Vernon – Vernon is a grower, not a shower – until the sample is filled.

Spencer motivation for a Las Vegas franchise is unrelenting.

Spencer leverages Joe’s link the VR firm to make his final pitch. A VR presentation about the new Vegas stadium/environment is created to impress Hastings. Talk about a kid in a candy shop. He’s so giddy he wants to call it Wayneville (joking?), and he’s offering up 600 acres, which is 200 more than required. In addition, he’s willing to put in $100 Million of his own money to entice future investors, even though he was only asked for his real estate backing.

Ballers ends as Spencer appears to show some regret about the potential move. Is he risking his clients’ future in pursuit of the Vegas deal? Considering Ricky gave him a interest-free multi-million dollar loan, it’s an interesting question to ponder.

Ballers airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.