Inside the conference room, a development meeting is set to begin. Everyone's notes and ideas are laid out and ready to be discussed. Natalie is especially prepared, bringing an extra notepad and pens along with a stapler and paper punch.
Seated at the head of the table is Natalie. She is flanked by Jeremy to her right and Kim to her left. Next to Kim sits Elliott. Isaac is sitting at the other end of the table. An empty chair waits to be filled by Dan so the meeting can begin.
Natalie: Has anybody seen Danny? He hasn't been in his office.
Elliott: I think he's working on a project - something about soccer.
Kim: Dan's not working on a soccer story.
Elliott: What are you, the Queen of Sheba?
Kim: As a matter of fact, yes.
Isaac: Actually, Dan was working on something when I was leaving last night.
Jeremy: You left before Dan last night?
Natalie flips through her clipboard and whips out a folded piece of paper. She unfolds it and begins to look for some information.
Jeremy: Who had seventeen?
Kim: It can't be Danny because that was against the rules. One cannot purposely stay late for one's own benefit.
Isaac begins to figure out what's on the piece of paper.
Isaac: You had a pool to see how many consecutive nights I worked late?
Elliott: Yeah, you needed to go home early two nights ago.
Kim: That's because you picked fifteen.
Natalie: Eighteen nights is the closest, so it's the winner. Dave had eighteen.
Each is somewhat disappointed on losing the pool.
Dan enters the conference room.
Dan: Okay, I'm sorry I'm late, but that doesn't mean I had to take away your sunshine.
Jeremy: Dave won the pool.
Dan takes a seat between Jeremy and Isaac.
Natalie: You haven't been in your office.
Dan: Yeah. I've been working on something.
Elliott: Does it have anything to do with soccer?
Dan: Yes, as a matter of fact-
Dan stops in mid-sentence when he realizes he has shocked the room.
Dan: It's not what you think.
Natalie: I'm thinking I'm a bit surprised to hear you are working on anything soccer-related.
Elliott snaps his fingers.
Elliott: That would have been a great pool.
Kim: Which year Danny would develop a soccer story?
Dan: Okay, okay guys. It is a public safety issue, which happens to coincide with youth soccer.
Natalie: Hold that thought Danny. I want to save that for last. First, let's hear what everybody else has to suggest. Jeremy?
Jeremy: I'm thinking of doing a feature on the impact of the expansion of the Big 12. For instance, the dilution of the field during the basketball tournament and the fact there are extra shares to be divided up when the tournament revenues come in.
Elliott: How about a story on NASCAR involving the different teams? Point out examples how one driver can help a teammate and fellow driver win a race: from cross-training to holding off opposing drivers to helping draft to preserve fuel.
Natalie: Okay. Kim?
Kim: A focus on spring training. Do a feature on established veterans and what they need to fine tune during their workouts.
Natalie: Okay. And Pele over there?
Dan: I want to do a feature on the dangers of soccer goals.
Jeremy: And by soccer goals, you mean the team with the highest number wins?
Dan: No. Over the last two years, eleven children have been killed by accidentally running into the soccer goal post. Hundreds others have been injured, some critically.
Natalie: Not to minimize the importance of safety, but is there anything to shed a positive light on this?
Dan: The injury and mortality rate can be severely decreased by installing 200 dollars worth of foam padding around the posts. They already have padding around pro basketball goals, they're installing safety walls in NASCAR, and padding on baseball catchers have more than doubled over the last two decades. Why not add something more, which not only absorbs impacts, but also protects our children?
Isaac: Is there some sort of study you can use to support your claims?
Dan: There have been a number of studies from renowned researchers.
Natalie: So that's all the research you've been working on.
Dan: I feel it is our responsibility to not only highlight the triumphs and what is right about sports, but also to shed light on situations which can be corrected if only our audience was informed.
The room is momentarily quiet.
Isaac: Let's go with Danny's story. You've got three days to get it completed.
Dan: I can have it for you tonight.
Natalie: I can give you four minutes and not a second more.
Dan: Four minutes is all I need.
Natalie: Okay. That's it.
Everybody begins to gather up their notes.
Kim and Elliott begin to leave and exit out one door. Isaac exits out another door. Jeremy holds several sheets of paper and leans over to Natalie.
Natalie: Danny, you need to go to your office.
Dan: Yes, ma'am.
Dan exits the room.
Jeremy: Could I borrow your stapler?
In one hand, Natalie takes the sheets from Jeremy, and in the other hand, she grabs her stapler.
Jeremy: In the upper left-hand corner, please... and have the staple at a 45-degree angle.
Natalie: No problem.
Ker-chunk. Natalie has stapled the sheets together in the exact manner Jeremy has requested.
While Jeremy anticipates receiving the sheets back, Natalie decides they need a few more staples in a few more places.
Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk. Ker-chunk.
Natalie hands the sheets back to Jeremy. The pages are stapled in a way that he is unable to flip to any of the pages.
Jeremy: Uh, thank you?
Natalie: You're welcome. That's for reconsidering.
Jeremy: For me reconsidering going out to dinner with Lorie Allen?
Natalie: She's a pretty girl, Jeremy. Also, you should have gone with your initial instincts. I'm afraid you reconsidered because she's just a pretty girl.
Jeremy: I reconsidered because I'm hoping I can convince her that it won't work out.
Natalie: Come on, Jeremy. You reconsidered because you hope you can convince yourself it will work out.
Jeremy: Not true.
Natalie grabs all her papers and office supplies.
Natalie: You should have gone with your initial instincts. They're usually right.
Natalie exits the room, leaving Jeremy as the last one inside the conference room.
After having grabbed the latest copy off the wire, Dan finally makes his way into his office. To his surprise, Casey is sitting on the couch.
Dan: Casey? I'm surprised to find you here.
Casey: Yeah. I've done a little work this morning.
Dan: Cool. So have I.
Casey: Great. I hear you're doing a soccer story.
Dan: Yeah, yeah. I've heard all the jokes today. It's for a good cause.
Casey: I was wondering if you were starting to change - go through some sort of metamorphosis.
Dan: I'm still not a fan of the sport, Casey.
Casey: Good to know.
Dan sets his papers on his desk.
Dan: So what brings you here, besides your blatant disregard of your personal banishment from your former workplace?
Casey: I spoke with my agent.
Dan perks up.
Casey: My contract stipulates it is going to cost me ten-thousand dollars just to be able to negotiate with another network.
Dan: Ten-thousand dollars isn't much to leave and come here.
Casey: That's ten-thousand dollars to negotiate. It's one-hundred-thousand dollars to break out of my contract and sign with another network.
Dan: A hundred-thousand dollars? How much are they paying you over there?
Casey: Certainly not a hundred grand.
Dan: That's certainly an incentive not to leave.
Dan goes into thought and looks disappointed as he begins to figure some things out.
Dan: You're not coming back.
Casey: I didn't say I wasn't coming back.
Dan: I know, I know. It's not you, it's me. Spare me the sad, sorrowful tune, Casey.
Dan walks over to his window and stares outside.
Casey: Look. Charlie is going to going to college in a few years. That hundred grand would definitely pay for tuition.
Dan: And a few books.
Casey stands up and looks toward Dan.
Casey: Danny, I will seriously consider negotiating to come back here. I'm not certain if I can afford to pay all that money, or if the network wants to pay all that money just to bring me back.
Dan: You could even save an extra ten-thousand by not even negotiating.
Casey: Why are you being such a jerk over this?
Dan: Why are you being such a wuss?
Casey: I told you my contract was a complicated situation.
Dan: Unless you win the lottery.
Dan: Casey, the network is going to offer the position to Rob. Would I mind working with Rob? No. Is he the best option for the position? To be honest, no.
Casey: He has the credentials and ability to be very successful with this network.
Dan: He's willing to leave behind two decades of work in Chicago.
Casey: Come on, Danny.
Dan: I've got to work on this safety story, Casey. Isaac asked if I could have it done in three days; I told him I could have it done for tonight. I've got to get on the ball.
Dan turns, grabs some papers off his desk, walks by Casey, and exits the room.
Sam and Dana are inside the hotel restaurant. This time, they are seated in a booth as they each eat their dinner.
Dana: So all these workshops are about efficiency.
Sam doesn't respond.
Dana: And they also teach us about how to address network concerns.
Sam nods in agreement.
Dana: I don't have an MBA, Sam. I'm not a numbers cruncher. I am more geared toward the 'what' and 'how' to do something. I'm not prepared for the corporate version of 'why' we do something.
Sam: You need to learn, Dana. Plus, your dinner is getting cold.
Dana: My dinner is fine.
Dana checks her watch.
Dana: It's five minutes 'til.
Dana: Do you mind if I move to the bar to watch the show?
Dana: Thank you.
Dana grabs her plate, flatware, napkin, and glass of wine. She gets up and heads toward the bar.
Dan and Jack Jankowitz are sitting at the anchor desk and preparing for the broadcast. Alyson, using her makeup brush, does some last-minute touchups on Jack. Her hand slips, and she drops the makeup brush on his jacket. The brush leaves a trail of makeup.
Alyson: Oh gosh. I'm so sorry.
Jack: It's okay.
Jack tries to brush the makeup off his jacket, but it smears and makes a bigger mess.
Alyson: I'll get you another jacket.
Jack: I'll go with you.
Dan checks the time clock, and it reads a little over three minutes until air.
Dan: You've got time- three minutes, plus the one-minute intro.
Jack: I'll be right back.
Alyson: I'm sorry.
Jack gets up, and he heads with Alyson toward wardrobe.
Alone, Dan looks around the studio and his mind begins to wander. He begins thinking of his personal, frustrating situation. Dan shows some impatience by tapping his hand on the desk. He finally can't wait any longer.
Dan: Natalie?! I need to speak with you!
Natalie, who is sitting in Dana's chair inside the packed and busy control room, leans into the microphone.
Natalie: (into mike) We've got time and no changes, Danny. Jack will be fine.
Dan: I need to speak with you right now.
Natalie: (into mike) Okay. Shoot.
Dan: Right here.
Natalie: (into mike) We have two minutes to air.
Dan: This will only take a minute.
Natalie decides to leave her chair in order to keep Dan from having a panic attack. She casually walks from the control room and over to the anchor desk.
Natalie: This isn't the way to go about producing our show.
Dan: I know, but it's about Casey-
Natalie: Hold on.
Natalie reaches up onto Dan's suit. She plucks the active microphone off his jacket and tosses it aside.
Natalie: You were miked.
Natalie walks around to Dan's chair, and the two attempt to have a quick, private conversation.
Natalie: What about him?
Dan: He needs to be back here.
Natalie: Jack leaves for a minute, and you already want Casey sitting here?
Dan: I'm serious.
Natalie: We're in agreement over Casey.
Dan: If Rob comes here, he will be controlling.
Natalie: I thought you two got along.
Dan: We did. We just... it was better if I followed his lead and not try to stir up any trouble.
Natalie: He was your boss.
Dan: It was my first network job.
Natalie: And you've gotten pretty good at stirring up trouble, especially before broadcasts.
Dan: (pleading) Natalie.
Natalie: Bringing Rob here might be a good way to keep you in line.
Natalie realizes that while she has been joking, Dan has been serious.
Natalie: You really want Casey back here.
Natalie: You need to be speaking with Isaac, Dana, Sam, and the network executives. They're the ones making the hiring decision.
Dan: But I need your help.
Natalie: But you've got to follow my lead.
Dan: No problem.
Natalie: Funny. A minute ago, you said you didn't want somebody who was controlling.
Dan: I thought I was working with you.
Natalie: Follow my lead, and you'll be working with Casey.
Dan trusts Natalie's self-confidence.
Natalie leaves the anchor desk as Jack walks back to his chair.
Dan: Nice jacket.
"One minute VTR, two minutes live."
Inside the control room, Elliott and Kim pass each other in the doorway, with Elliott heading into the studio. Kim takes her seat next to Jeremy.
Natalie reenters the control room. Her thoughts of how to bring back Casey are pushed back an hour.
Natalie: Let me hear Tampa.
As Natalie stands behind Chris and Will, the two gentlemen make it possible for her to hear the connection with Tampa.
Dave: Thirty seconds VTR.
As Natalie makes her way around the control room, she passes by Jeremy. With pencil in hand, Jeremy is busy circling some highlights on a shot sheet.
A thought occurs to Natalie.
Natalie grabs Jeremy's pencil, snaps it in half, and hands it back to him. Those inside the room who catch Natalie's act are amused by it.
Jeremy: Thank you?
Natalie: You'll thank me later.
Natalie takes her seat as Isaac enters the room.
Natalie: Isaac's in the house. Good show everybody.
Jeremy: Good show.
Kim: Good show.
Elliott: Good show.
Will: Good show.
Chris: Good show.
Dave: Good show.
Isaac: Good show.
Isaac notices Jeremy using his broken pencil.
Isaac: Jeremy, I believe the network can afford to give you a whole pencil.
Jeremy: Apparently, I cannot afford it.
Dave: In 5, 4, 3, 2...
The Sports Night introduction begins to air. Jack's voice can be heard doing the show's teasers.
Isaac stands at the back of the room, so as to not get in the way.
Isaac: By the way, I would like to congratulate Dave on winning the pool.
Dave: No, Isaac. Thank you.
Natalie: You're in a very good mood tonight, Isaac.
Isaac: I have reason to be in a very good mood.
Natalie: What is that?
Isaac: We're in second place.
Kim picks up a ringing phone as Elliott comes back into the room carrying the latest updates.
Elliott: Pitt squeaked past UConn by two and Syracuse is pulling ahead of Virginia Tech with about a minute to go.
Natalie: Great. Finalize the shot sheet for Pitt-UConn and get it to Dan for use in the teens. Have Syracuse-Virginia Tech read for the forty block.
Elliott: Got it.
Elliott heads into the sound room and he directs another associate to get the highlights ready for Pitt-UConn.
Kim puts her phone call on hold and turns back to Isaac.
Kim: Isaac? There's a call for you on line 55.
Isaac: Thank you, Kim.
Isaac begins to reach for the phone on the back wall.
Kim: It sounds urgent.
Sensing something amiss, Isaac decides not to pick up the phone.
Isaac: I'll take it in the conference room. Thanks, Kim.
Isaac quickly exits the room.
Dave: Live in 5, 4, 3, 2...
Dan: (on-air) Good evening. From New York City, I'm Dan Rydell, sitting alongside Jack Jankowitz. The Big East provides us with some big hoops as they prepare for tournament time; the Red Sox head into spring training trying to accomplish no small feat; and we'll have everything between the blue lines and beyond in hockey.
Jack: (on-air) We'll first start tonight with the Lakers on the second leg of their East Coast trip as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Sixers...
With a sense of urgency, Isaac rushes back into the control room.
Isaac: Jeremy? Arrange to have someone call my house every two minutes.
Jeremy: What's wrong?
Isaac: Esther was supposed to go out with her friends tonight, but she never showed. And no one is answering at the house.
Jeremy: Should I call 9-1-1?
Isaac: I've already called.
Jeremy picks up a phone as Isaac rushes back out of the room and begins his flight home. The excitement of the evening has turned somber at the unexpected and ambiguous turn of events.