Finals or finale?

Dan Wetzel

SAN ANTONIO – "The Sopranos" finale is tonight at 9 p.m. ET, which you already knew. Unfortunately, some of us Sopranos fans have to work Sunday night.

Like LeBron James and I.

He has to play in Game 2 of the NBA final. I have to cover it for Yahoo! Sports. As work goes, my assignment isn't exactly ditch digging. No heavy lifting comes with being a sports writer, unless you're asking me to make Tim Duncan sound interesting. But complaining? No, no complaints. You can't complain about anything with a job like this.

Except this is the finale of "The Sopranos" and I have to miss it.

Except last week I was legitimately tense watching the penultimate episode, truly worried about whether Tony Soprano was going to get whacked, troubled that his crew was a bunch of bumbling suburban bumpkins compared to Phil Leotardo's Brooklyn pros.

Except I've actually considered staying in my hotel here, watching the episode and then slipping into Game 2 late. Isn't the old theory on the NBA that you only have to watch the last five minutes? Just don't tell my editor I'm even considering it.

See, I won't be missed. I'm just one of many media from around the world covering this basketball series. LeBron, well, people would probably notice if he was watching TV.

"I did have my girlfriend TiVo 'The Sopranos' definitely so when I get home I'll be able to watch it," James said.

Easy for him. He'll be home Monday. I won't be home until Friday, at the earliest. What are the chances I can avoid finding out about the episode over that long a period?

Everyone will be talking about it. This is such a pop culture phenomenon that you can't avoid a little news, such as "Tony Killed" running on the CNN Ticker, if they aren't too busy covering important world events like Paris Hilton, of course.

One thing is for certain: Tony might swim with the fishes tonight, but even if he goes out with a whimper (and I doubt it) he'll get one last hit in when the show whacks the NBA's TV ratings. Game 1 last Thursday, featuring the small TV markets of Cleveland and San Antonio, was the lowest-rated opening game in history.

Considering the demographics of the NBA and "The Sopranos" are a near perfect match, well, David Stern might feel like Sil, bulleted and bloodied and breathing with difficulty by Monday's Nielsen news.

For the record, as disturbingly passionate as I am about "The Sopranos," I don't even consider it HBO's best show. Heresy this weekend, I know. But "The Wire" is better in almost every way, smarter, more relevant, deeper and, to boot, Marlo Stanfield would wax Tony and his crew quicker than A.J. could break down in a pathetic heap of wailing.

That show long ago deserved all the attention of "The Sopranos."

Regardless, all weekend I've spent more time wondering what is going to happen to Tony Soprano than Tony Parker. My work performance is being rattled by a fictional sociopath mobster – a killer, liar, adulterer, bad father, worse husband and even someone who dumped asbestos in the Jersey swamp.

And, yet, I don't want him to die. LeBron, either. I guess we're both hopeless romantics.

"Me and my guys have definitely sat down and think about it," James said. "My friends think that either the Feds are going to come and get him or he's going to make friends with the Feds and maybe snitch on a lot of people, or he's going to be whacked, which I don't think is going to happen.

"I hope that he's just able to get away and not worry about nothing."

"The Sopranos" vs. the NBA, Sunday Night, prime time. This should be a no contest. But what if you were being paid to watch one, not the other?

If I'm not at my press row seat at tip-off, just don't tell my editor. I don't want to get whacked either.