Reviewing Starz’s “Survivor’s Remorse”

I don’t write about sports because I understand them better than most people; I write about sports because sports are the only thing I’ve ever really understood. As one of the very few things my dad and I still see eye-to-eye on, sports have always been the common thread that keeps us together on any level. Of my two brothers and I, I was the one who gravitated towards watching baseball and basketball and football growing up.

And to this day, for better or worse, I’m the same way.

So, when it comes to sports television shows — or sports movies — I consider myself as decent a source as anyone to answer one question: How true to life, or how real, is this?

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know what makes a good screenplay or clever cinematography, which is why I thought Moneyball was terrible and Field of Dreams and Bull Durham were meh; I don’t care about the finer details that make a good film, because I’m more focused on how real the sports aspect of the movie was.

  • Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are excellent actors, but the plot of Moneyball wasn’t real; it fabricated Billy Beane’s relationship with manager Art Howe, it turned a book of economics into a “scouting vs. analytics” drama film, and failed to even mention the real reason the A’s went on their magical run that year: the fact they had Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito in their starting rotation.
  • As for Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, I understand they’re classics. I understand Field of Dreams is less about actual baseball than it is the mystical existential journey of Costner’s character, but I can never invest in his struggle because I don’t give him any credit as a baseball person. In Bull Durham — another film based less on baseball than the art of growing up — my criticism is simpler: The baseball players simply don’t look like baseball players. It looks like they cast their actors for a drama and worried about the sport they’re playing after the fact.

Basically, if I can’t buy the characters, or if I can’t buy the storyline, I just don’t give a fuck about it. Strangely, it’s the same reason I like Major League, a comedy, more than any other baseball movie. It’s real. Show me something real and I’ll tell you how much I love it.

Survivor's Remorse 2014

Survivor’s Remorse

This show, from Starz, interested me because it plays to my particular sensibilities: Basketball and money. It revolves around the lead character (Cam) who recently inked a max contract with a theoretical basketball team from Atlanta that is definitely not the Hawks, though through the first three episodes the most you see Cam do is hold a basketball. I figure they do this so no one actually has to see him take a jump shot or make a drive to the hoop, thus exposing that he looks nothing like a basketball player who is worthy of a max contract.

The show is more focused on everything else that comes with being a rich man in a new role as a public figure than it does basketball, which is fine yet poorly executed, and I’ll get into that more in a minute. Alongside Cam are his agent (and cousin), his sister, his uncle and his mom, who make up a fairly predictable posse. Mike Epps plays the uncle, and he has his funny moments, while Cam’s cousin plays his well-spoken conscious, constantly reminding him what is and isn’t the right thing to do, mostly against Cam’s infantile wishes.

Cam’s main thought process is I have money I wanna spend all the money!, while his cousin is one of those lame impractical folks who wants him to be boring and responsible with it.

The first problem I found came in one of the first scenes of the first episode, when Cam is at his opening press conference for the team he just signed with, making an off-color joke thanking his mom that she didn’t abort him (to the sound of crickets). This doesn’t take into account that, you know, the Atlanta team he just signed with has an image of their own to uphold, that they would in any possible way allow him give a written speech without it being combed over beforehand. I wish I had video of the presser to help show you what I’m talking about, but I guess Starz doesn’t surrender their content to the Internet.

In episode two is where the real bullshit meter gets ratcheted up: After Cam’s mother gives an interview at a charity function, she reveals she used to give “whoopins” to her son growing up, that that made him become what he turned into –a multi-million dollar basketball superstar. (As an aside, it’s interesting that they decided to go down this route, likely filming it well before the Adrian Peterson story came out regarding his own child-beating.)

The real kicker, though, is the reluctance Cam’s mother had — once the Atlanta owner had a PR shitstorm on his hands and called for a press conference for her to take back what she said — to take to the microphone to aid her son’s career. It’s as if no one involved with this show has ever been been witness to the necessary damage control involved when a quote gets taken the wrong way by the masses, which is hard to believe since LeBron James is one of the producers. Remember, we’re talking about millions of dollars here… why the hell would a mom not do anything in her power to protect the interests of her son? It doesn’t add up, even in a television show.

But hey, I guess it’s hard to fill up 26 minutes of run time.

By the third episode, things started becoming more clear. No, this story still doesn’t make very much sense, but the thing that gets me is this: Why is Cam’s entire group traveling with him to every function he’s at? In episode two it was a charity dinner; in episode three Cam is visiting a sick kid at a hospital. Why are his sister, mother, uncle and agent with him during these moments? Can’t he just take his agent? Doesn’t anyone else have a life to live?

I don’t get to hang out with professional ballers, so maybe it’s different, but still.

In the first episode it’s mentioned Cam signed as an undrafted free agent out of high school, making the league minimum. Now, this type of thing has happened before, so it’s not totally unrealistic, but of all the players currently in the NBA I would venture a guess and say less than 5% went undrafted, and I would bet good money that no one has a max contract who went undrafted. I assume this is convenient for plot purposes so they don’t have to attach him to a college, because they don’t want to have to pay for those rights. Still, it’s another of many things that takes the educated sports fan further away from my ultimate question: Is this real?

The title of the show derives from Cam’s insistence on feeling guilty for being in the position he’s in, which is for characterization purposes, but almost everything he does contradicts that sentiment. He buys a sweet apartment and an Aston Martin, doesn’t want to visit a terminally sick child in a hospital, and has general disdain for acting on anything where responsibility is involved.

If you enjoy stupid, pointless sports-related show entertainment where you don’t have to ponder underlying themes, this is the show for you. I feel like I’m going to continue watching it just for the fuck of it, since I started, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to get any better, even though I’ll keep wishing it does.

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