SBD/August 22, 2017/People and Pop Culture

"Ballers" Moves Las Vegas Plot Forward, Including VR Flythrough Of Potential Stadium

HBO’s "Ballers" on Sunday night picked up from last week's overarching theme of bringing an NFL team to Las Vegas. The episode begins at a dinner with Spencer Strasmore, played by DWAYNE JOHNSON, along with his business partner Joe, played by ROB CORDDRY, discussing the venture with the unnamed Cowboys owner, played by actor CHRISTOPHER MCDONALD, and a Las Vegas casino magnate, played by STEVE GUTTENBERG. The Cowboys' owner, who only goes by "boss man" on the show, tells the guests at the dinner table, “I want this Vegas stadium on par with Jerry’s World.” But Joe asks, “You want us outdoing AT&T Stadium?” The owner replied, “Growth is what’s best for the league. ... We need to go on the offensive and expand our territory, create monuments that go beyond football and show working-class families a great time." Guttenberg’s character adds, “While also appealing to those with deep pockets.” Strasmore said, “I talked to the Raiders and they’re open for business.” The Cowboys' owner notes an NFL owners’ meeting is around the corner and says, "I’ll just load the fellas up on Johnnie (Walker) Blue and push this thing through." But Strasmore's client and friend, free agent WR Ricky Jerret, played by JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON, also tells him, "Is it really worth ripping the team away from Oakland, especially now that they’re competitive for the first time in, like, forever. Some might question where your priorities lie."

VR PLAY: The stadium deal initially hits a snag after the dinner when Guttenberg’s character tells Strasmore he is unwilling to cut any check for the venture. Guttenberg: "I’m not going to spend my money when someone else will be stupid enough to spend theirs." The casino magnate's assistant notes he brings his “brand” to the deal, which is "far more valuable than dollars.” Guttenberg: “After all, I am the city of Las Vegas." Then, an NFL league exec, who in a previous episode warned Strasmore about his Vegas play, runs into Strasmore talking to the casino magnate in the parking lot. However, just before the end of the episode, Hastings was shown a VR demonstration of what a new Las Vegas stadium would look like, complete with "Wayneville" slapped on the stadium rendering and slot machines in the venue. The casino magnate ends up offering $100M and 600 acres to build the stadium.

LEAGUE NOT A FAN: Strasmore again runs into a female NFL league exec, who sees him exiting the dinner with the Vegas casino magnate. Later in the episode, one of Strasmore's clients, Cowboys DT Vernon Littlefield, played by DONOVAN CARTER, is then sent a random drug test by the league. Carter, who in previous episodes has been endorsing a cannabis company, admits he had been taking cannibinoids. Strasmore again meets with the NFL exec, who hints at keeping a suspension for Littlefield to a minimum four games if Strasmore steps away from the Vegas play. The exec also hints that the league knows about Jerret being arrested for a mistaken home invasion, despite no charges being filed.

LINES OF THE NIGHT:
  • Joe tells Carter about endorsing a VR company and getting out of his cannabis endorsement, “Cannabinoids are a great cause, Vern, but weed is weed. Endorsing any product tied to it is going to put your money at risk."
  • Strasmore's boss, played by actor RICHARD SCHIFF, calls Strasmore out on his checkered past with the league and the union, saying, “The idea of moving a football franchise to Las Vegas has been one giant circle jerk right from the start. Given your track record, I’m guessing the league would rather have the face of the devil on this deal than you.” 
CAMEOS: A Dolphins front office exec shows up to talk to a fictitious Dolphins coach, played by PETER BERG, who is doing a boxing workout with longtime trainer FREDDIE ROACH, who is decked out in Under Armour gear, with UA branding also all around the ring. Hornets G KEMBA WALKER, wearing a Jordan Brand sweatshirt, also appears in the ring, but does not have a speaking role. Meanwhile, Ravens LB TERRELL SUGGS reprises his ongoing role as himself, trying to convince Joe, his financial advisor, to sell some Apple stock after a bad dream involving the Garden of Eden ("Ballers," HBO, 8/20).
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