"Ballers," an HBO drama-comedy about professional football players' lives away from the field, relied on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (a former defensive lineman at Miami), realistic writing (allegedly), and cameos from the NFL players to keep its inaugural season grounded in reality (again, allegedly). The show, of which Mark Wahlberg serves as an executive producer, stressed issues like concussions and the financial side of the game. Picture a slightly more serious "Entourage," swapping out Hollywood for the NFL and South Beach.
By the sound of it, the NFL wasn't a fan of the first season.
On Friday, Wahlberg appeared on ESPN's "Mike & Mike." There, he revealed that he fielded multiple calls and complaints from NFL executives via telephone. Wahlberg even named NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, though it's unclear if he personally called the actor and diehard Patriots fan. NFL senior vice president of communications Natalie Ravitz denied on Twitter that Goodell ever called Wahlberg.
"The first season of the show, the only calls I was getting were from guys like Roger Goodell saying, 'You can't do this,' and various owners in the league," Wahlberg said. "We were saying it's actually a good thing for the league and the players because hopefully you'll get the word out there with the crazy stuff and the financial side of it and hopefully get these guys to realize that they've got to be more careful with what they do with their money."
Unfortunately, the "this" in that quote is also unclear. Many have assumed it refers to the cameos by NFL players. Just before that quote, Wahlberg spoke about the degree of difficulty in getting players to appear on the show. ESPN's own headline for the video is "Goodell tried to stop NFL cameos on 'Ballers.'" Still, based on the video clip alone, it's not clear if that's actually what Wahlberg was referring to.
In the first season, stars DeSean Jackson, Steven Jackson, Antonio Brown, Larry Csonka, Dannell Ellerbe, Jeremy Shockey, Rashard Mendenhall, Jared Odrick, Jon Beason, Victor Cruz, LaMarr Woodley, Will Davis, Jason Pierre-Paul, Terrell Suggs, and Julian Edelman appeared on the show. Back in January, Johnson was spotted hanging out with Duke Johnson, Torrey Smith, NaVorro Bowman, and former defensive tackle Anthony Adams. According to Wahlberg, this season features Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, Suggs -- again -- and "countless Patriots."
Wahlberg refused to name names when it came to his Patriots.
"I can't say what they're doing or who it is yet," Wahlberg said, "because it's a surprise and I don't want to spoil the finale."
It's probably too late for any late additions to the cast -- season two premieres Sunday (today) -- but I know of a certain Patriots player who might have some more free time this summer due to a suspension that'll keep him out of the first four games of the regular season. Like Wahlberg, I won't name names, but I will say his name rhymes with Bom Trady.