WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Sean Payton stops short of calling the HBO series “Ballers” a realistic portrayal of life in pro football, even if he likes the show enough to have made a cameo appearance in this week’s episode.
“I think it’s entertaining. What they take is, I would say, every stereotype in the last 25 years and they roll it into a half-hour episode,” Payton said Monday, a day after the first airing of the episode that includes him.
In the episode, Payton tries to entice high-profile free agent receiver Rickey Jerret to come to New Orleans from Miami. Jerret is played by John David Washington, who actually played football at Morehouse College and had a tryout with the Saints in 2008, when Payton was in his third season as New Orleans’ head coach.
“I haven’t kept track of his (acting) career, but he’s doing a great job,” Payton said of Washington, whose father is actor Denzel Washington. “And obviously that show has done well.”
When first asked how realistic he thought “Ballers” was, Payton smiled and recalled being teased about his scene by Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. In that scene, the Saints surprise Jerret at the airport with a brass band, Saints cheerleaders, women in bikinis on a Mardi Gras-type float and a gospel choir singing the lyrics, “Feel the love.”
“Look, you read the script sometimes — and it was like Mickey said to me, ‘If we ever show up with an airplane and a parade to sign a 30-year-old receiver ...,” Payton began before trailing off without finishing the sentence.
Payton said he was asked to appear on “Ballers” and that he appreciated the entertainment value of the series, as well as “the humor element and what they’re trying to accomplish,” even if the show doesn’t necessarily resemble his own experience as an NFL coach.
“You shake your head as you’re reading some of the script ... (but) it doesn’t have to be real, right?” Payton said.
The Saints coach said he also gained a new appreciation for the work ethic of the actors, extras and crew on the set.
“That’s a long day, that’s a tedious day. Those people in that band, that was 14 times they backed up and did it again and again, right in the heat,” Payton recalled. “But it gave you a chance to meet a lot of fun people.”