Two long-running L.A. stories improbably cross paths this season: HBO's "Entourage" and the on-again, off-again saga of the NFL's return to Los Angeles.
Over the last 15 years, no one has been able to solve L.A.'s stadium/team/timing Rubik's Cube — not billionaires, powerful politicians or league owners.
So in struts fictional agent Ari Gold, the crass, uber-arrogant, and, for the most part, amusingly unprintable star of "Entourage." He's a loudmouth who has crushed, connived and bullied his way to the top, emerging as the most powerful agent in Hollywood.
"Ari Gold is hungry enough and cagey enough to get it done," said actor Jeremy Piven, who plays him on the popular dramedy. "My story arc hinges on whether or not he gets it done. It's been the best year I've ever had as a character, and it all starts with the NFL."
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones makes a cameo on the latest episode, declining Gold's bid to represent the league in its TV negotiations but instead offering him — holy smokes! — the Holy Grail.
"Ari, we've been wanting a team in L.A. for a long time," Jones says over the cellphone as he walks across the tarmac toward his Cowboys jet. "You may be the man. How would you like to own an NFL team, Mr. Gold?"
The two agree to keep talking and then hang up. Once he catches his breath and gathers his wits, the super agent breathlessly quizzes an underling: "What do you think about the name . . . the L.A. Golds?"
Don't get too excited, Ari. JaMarcus Russell will wind up in Canton before the L.A. scenario unfolds that way. If the process were as simple as the NFL anointing a savior, the deal would have been done long ago.
Even so, it makes for an entertaining story line, and lots of people around the NFL are tuned in — from owners to coaches to players to people who have made their own bids to bring a team to L.A.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has this advice for Gold: Pipe down, you Wilshire windbag.
"All owners get humbled when they come into the NFL," Kraft said. "The league has a way of finding humility in people. It's the greatest business in the world, but it can be cruel and brutal."
He advises that Gold "be passionate about putting a winning team on the field, and don't think you're smarter than everybody else."
New Orleans Coach Sean Payton said he might be willing to work for Gold, "but I wouldn't want to be his first or second coach. Maybe his third."
Payton's star quarterback, Drew Brees, has made an "Entourage" cameo. So have Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Brian Urlacher and others.
Actor Piven, a former high school linebacker who is a devoted Chicago Bears fan, thinks Gold — fresh off merging the two biggest agencies in Hollywood — is capable of solving the L.A. riddle.
"Ari is truly as tenacious as they come," Piven said in a telephone interview. "I think that he would not rest until he gets it done. He has boundless energy, he wants to take the next step, and he's got the momentum."
So far, no one has been able to maintain momentum in a bid to bring back a team. Casey Wasserman, a real L.A. businessman who's looking into building a stadium next to Staples Center, warns that the NFL is "more unattainable than any client Ari has ever chased." (In an upcoming "Entourage," Wasserman has a bit part as himself, playing a potential investor in Gold's deal.)
Carmen Policy, formerly a top executive for the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, advises that Gold should be on his best behavior when meeting with league owners and executives. (Translation: No strip clubs.)
Said Policy: "He should choose his entertainment spots wisely when the membership committee comes to town."
Again, this is all make-believe. Still, some people refuse to stretch their imagination enough to believe the league would extend even a fictional golden opportunity to an agent, someone who sits on the other side of the bargaining table.
"Ari Gold would be lucky to serve soup to those owners," said David Israel, a TV writer and member of the Coliseum Commission, someone who has dealt extensively with the NFL. "They have one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. They're not going to let an agent into their tent. Agents are the enemy."
Regardless, it makes for good summer viewing.
There is one fundamental difference, however, between "Entourage" and the NFL-to-L.A. show.
One stars a shark. The other has jumped it.