CASEY:"I take the nouns and verbs, Danny handles the adjectives and prepositions. Anything with an umlaut, we toss a coin."
1. “It’s mold,” Elliot announces.
“They wouldn’t bring in guys in hazmat suits for mold.”
“There’s a chance it might be anthrax,” Dave interjects. “You know, from the insulation. I have a friend who’s an engineer.”
“Uh, I think you mean asbestos.”
A confused look crosses Dave’s face. “I…think I mean asbestos, too.”
“Flaky stuff?” Jeremy clarifies, “Bad news if it gets in your lungs?”
“Yup, that’s asbestos.”
“Or,” Elliot interrupts, “it could be mold.”
“I don’t care what it is,” Dana snaps, “It’s ruining my show!”
“Hey,” Dan holds up a hand like a traffic cop, “Something goes wrong on the 50th floor, CSC’s insurance has agreed to replace all of the acoustic tiles on the 49th—that’s us. Let me clarify: new tiles, for us, for free. That sounds like a pretty good deal.”
“Ah, such enthusiasm! Such youthful naiveté,” Dana flaps her run-down script in annoyance. “Tell me, young Daniel, where will we film while this work is being done?”
“We film from 10 PM; I hardly think CSC is gonna pay hazmat clean-up guys that kind of overtime.”
“Human error,” Isaac says, and they all turn around to look at him.
“It’s not mold or anthrax. I bet it’s human error.”
“Isaac, this building has 73 floors. It’s built out of steel and reinforced concrete. It’s been here for 22 years. I think, in that time, that someone would have noticed an error.”
“Well, clearly you’re betting on human ingenuity, Casey. I’m betting on human error. Now the only question is—how much are you willing to bet?”
“So, what’ll you spend it on?” Casey asks.
“Hmm?” Isaac looks up from the sheaf of papers spread across his desk.
“I just paid you a not inconsiderable sum because someone forgot to turn off a faucet in the 50th floor janitor’s closet. I’d like to know where my hard-earned money is going.”
Isaac's left eyebrow jumps at hard-earned. “Well, according to this report, the flood damaged all the insulation above our studio. It’s all got to come out—Elliott was right about the mold. Which means all the acoustic tiles need to come down. You ever replaced a ceiling, son?”
Casey shakes his head. “I live in New York City. My super does everything except change the lightbulbs.”
“Right after we moved up to New Canaan, we got a squirrel up in the attic. Ate through all our insulation and then went and died on us. So.”
“So I know what I'm in for. I’m going to buy me some earplugs. And maybe a helmet.”
2. “I have something for the last ten.”
“Last ten is booked, Dan: Patriots vs. Broncos, it’s the bridge to West Coast Update.”
“Something be—“ Casey looks up. “Blasphemer! There is nothing better than…”
“Uh-uh, think carefully before you finish that sentence, Casey.”
“Does it involve peanut butter?”
Now it’s Dan’s turn to look confused. “Peanut bu—like, the spread-that-launched-a-thousand-gradeschool-lunches peanut butter? No. Why would it…? What are you talking about?”
“Just thinking of great pairings: chocolate and peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly, Pats and Broncos. Two great tastes that taste great together?”
“You know, Casey, I’m honestly not sure quite where this news would rank on a scale of one to...peanut butter—but I’m confident you’ll appreciate it when you hear it.”
“OK, lay it on me.”
“Only if you promise never, ever to use that phrase in my hearing again.”
“Dan, the amount of time we have spent talking about this is now vastly exceeds my actual interest, since I would happily go with our initial Patrio—”
“The IOC,” Dan announces with a gleam in his eye, “is entertaining a motion put forth by the Brazilian Olympic Committee to add competitive ballroom dancing to the Olympic scorecard in 2014.”
3. “It was an honest mistake.”
“Natalie, we put the man’s picture as an over-the-shoulder for a feature about Mexican soccer. I personally alluded to that picture twice in a three-and-a-half minute spot. On Mexican soccer.”
“And it was a very attractive picture!”
Casey turns to the couch where Dan is sprawled, exactly as though he were pitching the viewer to a stringer in the field, “Yet it was not a picture of Raul Gutierrez, famous Mexican soccer star, was it, Danny?”
Dan shakes his head mournfully, “It cannot be denied that our graphics were not, in fact, representative of Senor Raul Gutierrez, fútbol phenom, but rather—”
“Raul Gutierrez….poet,” Casey concludes.
“You guys,” Natalie wails, “they have the same name, spelled the same way, and in my defense, may I mention that our contacts photo bank searches geographically? The guy who lives in Brooklyn came up before the guy who lives in….wherever Mexican Raul Guitierrez lives.”
“That would be Mexico.”
“It was an honest—it could have happened to anyone, and—Elliot, back me up here,” Natalie corrals a wandering technician. “Couldn’t it have happened to anyone?”
“I don’t actually know what we’re talking about,“ Elliot begins, “but given your track record, Natalie, I gotta say whatever happened was probably statistically more likely to happen to you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Natalie, you know we love you, me and Chris and the guys, but if you didn’t have bad luck, you’d have no luck at all, which—”
Natalie cuts him off, “Ok, even if it were statistically more likely to happen to me, I just want to remind you of all the times tha—”
“But we’re not criticizing, Natalie.”
“Nor are we mocking,” Dan adds piously.
“You’re…not?” Natalie says, the same instant that Elliot confirms, “This is you two not mocking?”
“If anything, we should thank Natalie, right, Case?”
“Thank me?” Natalie echoes weakly.
“Poetry has been left out of our national discourse for too long!” Casey announces. “There was a time when every literate American could recite our great poetic works: Under the spreading chestnut, the village smithy stands...By the shores of Gitche Gumee…”
“The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day,” Dan interjects.
“Oh, yeah, that’s a favorite.”
“...A time when every literate American knew the difference between an iamb and a caesura,”
“That time has passed, Danny.”
“Indeed, it has, my friend.”
“But every golden age has a revival. And the revival has arrived. Gentlemen in England now-a-bed, shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here.”
“Poetry,” Dan points out in a stage whisper, and then in his normal tone, “Starting tonight.”
“You’re putting poetry on the show?” Natalie can feel her stomach sinking. “Tonight?”
“Poetry,” Dan declares, “is like pornography. You’ll know it when you see it. And now,” he sweeps his notes off the desk, “I’m going to go edit the footage from the Sox double-header.”
“Poetry in motion,” Casey concurs, peeling off for craft services, leaving Elliot and Natalie to stare at each other.
“Poetry,” Elliot says faintly.
Natalie drops her head into her hands. “Dana is going to have someone killed for this, isn’t she?”
“How did we decide on Sports Night?”
Casey looks up from the rundown sheet he’s defacing with marginalia. He tries to judge the exact tenor of Dan’s wistful tone: just how much of an existential crisis is this?
“Well, I wanted to stop reporting on rodeos and anything that required me to say “buckaroo” on air, so we had to get out of Texas.”
“No—not the show, the name!”
“Yes! When did we decide to call the show Sports Night? And why?”
“Wait, wait—this one I know! We’re a sports show…and we air at night! Thus, Sports Night. Also, I think I remember people threatening sue us ‘til we screamed if we took the name Lone Star Sports with us. Not that it would’ve really appealed to a national market, anyway.”
Casey waits for Dan to go back to his draft of tonight’s script, but he doesn’t. He’s staring out past the nearly lifesized Shaquille O’Neal cutout that Dana brought back from some industry event. Casey suspects there will be no more work done until they resolve this issue, so he asks, “Why do you think we chose the name Sports Night, Dan?”
“I’ve been talking a lot with, uh, you know, Abby…”
Casey nods encouragingly. Dan rarely brings up his therapist, though Casey’s not sure what’s the shame in getting professional help. After all, they’re in a career where people spend thousands of dollars to have professionals critique their golf swing.
“And I think we’re secretly jealous of SportsCenter,” Dan concludes, somberly.
Casey snorts. “Uhm, I could manage to be openly jealous of SportsCenter if anyone seemed interested.”
“Really?” Dan blinks, honestly surprised, “You’d rather be them than us?” Every now and then, his usually media-saavy partner has these flashes of innocence that Casey finds strangely endearing. Dan, he knows, wouldn’t trade Sports Night for every number in John Walsh's address book.
“No! No. I—” Casey pauses. He’d objected automatically, but now he realizes it’s true. “No. I was going to say, I’d like their resources, or I’d like their interview list but…you know what? We don’t do so badly. And sports loves an underdog.”
Dan smiles, finally. “That it does.”
“But you’re right about the names being similar: I bet CSC’s marketing people were hoping viewers would just confuse us and them.”
“Sports Night and SportsCenter?”
“Yeah…I mean, I see how it could happen.”
An uneasy silence settles for a moment.
“You’re worried I’m gonna do it, aren’t you? Say SportsCenter on air instead of Sports Night?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Who would get the name of their own show wrong?”
5. “We need more celebration in our lives.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“More celebration, Danny! We need to celebrate how rich and varied our world is. We need to revel in the opportunities that sometimes look like set-backs!”
“Dana, I appreciate that the CSC Positive Leadership Seminar has touched you in a very special place, but I’m not sure a run-down meeting is a good time to—”
“Casey, you are just a negative Ned full of negativism today! Which is why I would like you to be the one to pick our next celebration. I happen to have here my handy-dandy Children’s World Book of Festivals and you can just choose whichever one strikes your fancy. There’s a different one for every day of the year!”
“And then what?”
“Well, that will just depend on what you pick, now, won’t it? Part of positivity is making the most of whatever comes along.”
“Pick Valentine’s Day!”
“Natalie, once a decade would be more than enough Valentine’s Day for me, never mind once a year. Much less once a year plus an extra, Dana-imposed Valentine’s Day.”
“Can you see what I mean about the negativism, Casey? You are just crying out for some festive fun in your life. Go ahead—pick one at random. Just flip the book to any page and—what? What in the…OK. Well. Does anyone have thoughts on how we might go about celebrating United Nations Day?”