This is a guest post for Sports Show on Mute. I'm Ted, and you may know me better as a guy who writes here. If you don't, well, that's OK. For now I'm here, and that's the important thing.
As some of you may know, especially if you are inclined to watch sports on mute and thus occasionally find other programming worthy of your interest, HBO's power-packed lineup returns Sunday. While most of the attention is on The Sopranos - this is it, for real; the last nine episodes - will Tony be dead come June 8th? - perhaps some more attention should be focused on the other half of the Twin Towers for HBO, Entourage.
That's right: Vinnie, E, Johnny, and Turtle, along with Ari and company, are back for another eight episodes themselves. It's a show that's made countless 20something males feel absolutely miserable that their lives aren't like that, but it's also firmly established the hanger-on culture as pop culture relevant, even revered.
Aside from the show itself, there's no place in the world where the Hanger-On, Second Fiddle and Loving It gameplan comes into play like professional athletics. Consider this: once, many years ago, I was at a party at Georgetown. Makes a ton of sense, since I went there. Allen Iverson, then in his early days with the Sixers (post-crossing over Jordan, but pre-NBA Finals) showed up. He had, legitimately, 11 people with him. Honestly, maybe more. You wouldn't recognize a single face among them, unless you were from Newport News, VA or Washington, DC - and even then you wouldn't. But this is his posse. His entourage. In a similar, although more depressing vein, most surveyors of the Adam "Pac-Man" Jones situation say that his greatest undoing is his friends, and his need to provide for them. Purportedly, he was asked once: "If you could choose the NFL or your boys, what would you choose?" He responded in an instant. "My boys."
Everyone who's anyone in sports has an entourage. However, since I don't hang out with professional athletes (sigh), I can't really rank said groupings. What I can do, though, is take an assortment of four-person pairings from recent and past sports history and equate them to the HBO crew. Let's get poppin.
The Throwback: The 1971 Baltimore Orioles 20-Game Winners
You ever consider how rare this truly was? Four 20-game winners on one team, given how baseball is today? Impressive. I needed an old school throwback comparison, and this seemed random enough to just work.
No question that in this group, Jim Palmer is Vincent Chase. He's the first name that comes to your mind; whether it's the fact that he seems oddly out of place in modern society, perhaps even deranged, or the fact that he does those lending advertisments, he's still the first name on everyone's mind when it comes to the Orioles of this era. Since Vincent is the reason "Entourage" even exists, well, Palmer is him.
Eric would probably be Mike Cuellar. My logic here is that Mike Cuellar is the main character amongst the O's "Big Four" who could, to use the parlance of the industry, "hold his own storyline." He was the Co-AL Cy Young in '69, and he won 20 games four times in five seasons. He's in Baltimore's top five pitchers of all-time in virtually every relevant statistical category. Now, on Entourage itself, when the show isn't about Vincent or his movie deals, who is it usually about? Well, perhaps Drama and Turtle, but they tend to come as a package. Shows have been about "E" and his "man-caught-in-the-middle-of-fun-and-responsbility-almost-like-a-Greek-drama" package before. If it ain't about Palmer, it's about Cuellar; and if it ain't about Vinnie, it's about E.
The next two are a bit sadder, because Pat Dobson and Dave McNally are both deceased now. I'd vote McNally as Johnny Drama. Why? The sad part about McNally is that at the very end of his career, he became a free agent, but never got to actually experience what his freedom might have brought him. Drama's like that, too. He's a free agent in many respects, but because of his situation, and who his other peeps are (i.e. his brother), he never seems to experience it. Still, Drama is capable of big things - like McNally, who hit a Grand Slam in the 1970 World Series. And that leaves Dobson as Turtle. I'm not sure I can make a rational argument for that, except maybe this: Dobson ended his playing career on a down note in '77, going 3-12 with a 6.16 ERA. That's kind of like how Saigon did up Turtle, no?
A More Modern Example: Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Al Hoford, and Taurean Green
Talk about relevant. The first back-to-back national champion since the early 1990s? You know what's even better? These four cats (er, Gators) live together. They're suitemates. Just like the Entourage boys!
Joakim Noah is the leader, or so it seems. "We gon' do it all night, baby! All day and all night!" Um, what? Anyway, even though Horford might go higher in the draft, Noah is Vinnie Chase in this foursome. Their hairstyles are even vaguely similar.
"E" would probably be Taurean Green. Here's my logic: a) he's short, and so is Eric; b) he's the Gator most similar in terms of wordly problems to Green. See, on the Gators, Green is apparently the "wormy, nerdy, book-study" one. "You'll be more likely to find him on the couch than in the club," says Horford. Eric isn't a nerd, by any means, but that's his essential quandary at all times: is he the responsible guardian of his boys from home, or a wild man living out a dream on the West Coast? He's got no idea. You know Noah has brought him along when he's about to tag team two girls wearing a Japanese smoking robe, and Green's been like, "Well, err... ummm..."
Horford is Turtle: capable of so much, yet often overshadowed. They also both probably have mad officially licensed NBA gear in their closets; and I could see Horford ending up on the Knicks, kinda, so that makes it relevant too.
That leaves Brewer as Drama. This makes sense. See, as noted above, Drama is constantly in the shadow of his brother (more peeps discuss Noah than Brewer), but sometimes - sometimes - Brewer breaks out, like he did winning the '07 MOP. Drama breaks out too, occasionally. I mean, hell, he did that pilot once, right? Plus, don't they kind of have the same wiry-yet-beefy frame?
Another Modern Example: Beltran, Delgado, Reyes, and Wright
I'm honestly doubting that these four Mets - all of whom, and this is the best part, are legitimate MVP candidates in the NL - actually hang out. I'd be more inclined to think Wright does his own thing, or maybe pals around with Reyes, and then Beltran and Delgado are close. Although, I believe Delgado just had a kid, so he might be out of the loop all together. Regardless, none of 'em are probably like Ty Wigginton, who once stabbed his foot on glass at a NYC bar. Guess what, buddy? You're going to the Pirates. Take that.
I'd make Reyes into Vinnie here. He's hot (uh, I think I can say that...), he has movie star charisma, and he's redefining his position, in much the same way as Vince redefined the action hero for Aqua Man. Plus, you know Reyes has slept with at least one girl right before her wedding because he was on her list.
Wright becomes Eric. You know he's probably ending up with a girl as simeltaneously exotic and slutty as Sloan - I always thought that during Kris and Anna Benson's brief breakup, she would start sleeping with Wright - and I think he worries about his game enough that he doesn't want to be all wild. Again, the morality conundrum. It defines Eric, and it defines No. 5.
Delgado is Drama. Why? They both lift a lot, and no one paid nearly enough attention to Delgado until he took over in the playoffs last year. Then he got this big SI feature and a bunch of other articles, and suddenly he's the toast of the town. That has happened to Drama yet, but it will. It has to. For all of our sakes. All he needs is a big playoffs, er... some type of pilot with Kristy Swanson.
Thus, Beltran is Turtle. Not sure why this works other than process of elimination. However, wouldn't you like to be at a place in your life where you could call Carlos Beltran "Turtle" and get away with it? I would.
Last One: Dirk, Jason "The Jet" Terry, Josh Howard, and Jerry Stackhouse
You can pick a lot of examples on the Mavericks, the prohibitive favorite to get the latest sports monkey off their back. I even contemplated using Cuban and Avery. I'll save for that for later.
Dirk is Vince, no doubt. Dallas revolves around him, despite what Terrell Owens might think (or Michael Young, or whoever happens to be good on the Stars at a given point in time). He's the movie star, the leading man, whatever.
His wing man, in the truest sense, is Howard. This team got so much better since Josh Howard hit the floor running. He does almost everything right, and he's a classic story because no one wanted him except Wake, and then no one wanted him except Cuban. Eric always seems to be second fiddle to Vince, but he's still a man in his own right, and a cool one at that. He's J-Money.
Jason Terry is Turtle. Why? They both have a lot of shorts. Jason Terry sleeps in the shorts of his opponents before he plays 'em. I bet Turtle does that with whoever the Knicks are rumbling with the next night.
That leaves Jerry Stackhouse as Drama, which makes sense: was big at one point (Drama had a pilot, and Stackhouse once averaged 28 points in a year), and is now playing a smaller part contextually in life. I think Stackhouse might be a bit happier about it than Drama is, but if you sit around all day playing video games and fuckin' with James Woods, your life is still pretty sweet.
As a bonus for the Mavericks comparison, let's call Avery Johnson Lloyd. They kind of sound alike, no? And Mark Cuban can be Ari. I envision him doing push ups in a full suit in his office at 10:55am daily, telling Avery to hold his calls. Actually, there's no question in my mind that if Ari was a real life person, he'd probably be representing Mark Cuban in some capacity.