By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

I'm getting concerned there's something wrong with me. I spend more time talking and thinking about shows on HBO than I do about sports. Seriously.

I told a friend this week that I'm glad the season finale of "Entourage" airs this Sunday so I can then turn my attention to the NFL season.  During the same conversation, I admitted that I prefer "The Wire," "The Sopranos" and "Entourage" over the NFL, the NBA, the PGA Tour, and college football and basketball.


AP
Aren't you gonna miss these guys when their season ends Sunday night?

What does any of this mean? Does it mean I'm getting old? Am I becoming a nerd? Should I cancel HBO before my addiction affects my performance as a sports columnist?

My life has been dedicated to sports since about age 4, when my father took my brother and me to a Pacers game at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds, and I swore I would sport an afro as cool as Darnell Hillman's.

Since then, I can only think of one thing that has occupied space in my brain more than sports: Janice Toth, the most beautiful girl in my seventh-grade class at Stonybrook Junior High.

Well, now the shows on HBO are crowding Janice and sports for space in my noggin. Of course, it all started with Tony Soprano and his crew. What guy doesn't love a good mafia flick? But it wasn't until the end of Season 3 of "The Wire" that I noticed how important the HBO dramas had become.

When Stringer Bell was ruthlessly assassinated, I openly wept, fell into denial, eventually became depressed and have since spent an unusual amount of time trying to figure out how show creator David Simon will replace Stringer. Can Marlo and Chris form a duo as compelling as Avon and Stringer? Or maybe young Bodie rises to power and helps Avon hold onto his corners?

You see my problem? Normally, I spend my free time wondering whether Kobe and Phil will get along, did the Chiefs add enough defensive free agents, will Adrian Peterson repeat his freshman performance, can the Patriots survive all of their defensive losses?

This week, like most Americans, I have my fantasy football draft. And my thoughts are a jumbled mess. All I can think about is the season finale of "Entourage." I'm off the deep end. I spent most of the week pretending that the five main characters in "Entourage" were fantasy football players. Whom would I draft first?

Ari is the highest-rated player on my draft board. He's Priest Holmes, aka ATM: Automated Touchdown Machine. You can cancel this show without Ari. In fact, the one episode that was Ari Lite -- the U2 episode -- was completely unwatchable. Just like Holmes, a former undrafted rookie, no one expected Ari to be the star of this show. No one expected Ari to steal every scene he's in; it just happened. You don't see Ari smoking weed with the boys or even scoring tail with the boys. But he's still the coolest guy on the show. I'll be devastated if Ari doesn't build an agency that drives his old boss out of business.

No. 2 on my draft board is Johnny Drama. He's Terrell Owens. Drama is all messed up. He's insecure because his little brother got the good looks and all the attention from their parents. Drama acts out to get attention, but you can tell he's hurting on the inside. But as screwed up as he is, Drama delivers on Sundays. When he crapped out of his Movie of the Week deal with Brooke Shields because he hit a hard six at the wrong time, I contend that was the funniest moment in the history of sitcoms. Drama is a diva who is well worth the trouble.

With my third pick, I'm taking Vinny Chase in a close call over Turtle. You can't really go wrong with either selection. It just depends on what you prefer. Vince is Peyton Manning. He's going to give you great numbers, meaning he's going to score with a lot of bimbos, but don't ever forget that the dude is soft on the inside. Come on, you knew Vince wasn't a playa; you knew Mandy Moore or somebody was going to break him. Vince looks great in the regular season. He's a totally different playa once the relationship reaches playoff intensity.

Meanwhile, Turtle is as reliable as The Bus, Jerome Bettis. In every episode, Turtle is going to spark up, overeat and get involved in a little harmless mischief. One week, he might cross swords with Drama, the next, he'll discover the next West Coast rap star. By the end of the season, it never fails -- Turtle has ground out Pro Bowl credentials, and you're left wondering why you didn't take notice of his terrific season while it was happening.

My last pick is "E" or Eric. I wish they'd boot him off the show. The arrogant, little, overhyped piece of (stuff) reminds me of Maurice Clarett. The creators of "Entourage" think Eric is the star. But the character is unlikable. Eric talks way too much trash to Ari and tries to be just as clever. It doesn't work. The guy was making pizzas a year ago, and now he acts like he has all the answers in Hollywood. Clarett spent a year in college and thought he was God's gift to the NFL. Clarett started out as a nice little story everyone was rooting for, and now everyone is overjoyed the NFL served him a huge helping of humble pie. Please let Eric get humiliated. He has no business dating Sloan, who is better-looking than any of Vince's former girlfriends.

OK, here's my fantasy ending to Season 2: Sloan convinces Eric to take Ari's old job; Drama convinces Vince to stick with Ari; Turtle gets Dr. Dre to collaborate with Saigon; and Vince, in a Mandy-induced drunken stupor, gets in a serious car accident.

Now that that's off my mind, I can go back to wondering how to get in touch with Janice Toth and whether the Chiefs messed up signing Patrick Surtain rather than Ty Law.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at ballstate68@aol.com.



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FANTASY 'ENTOURAGE'