Notes and disclaimers: sports night, etc, property of large corporate entities, not me. No profit garnered ever. Thanks to Anna and throughadoor.



THE WIND CRIES PECOTA




"An impressive choice," Dan said.

"Not that surprising," Jeremy said. "But you should blog about your feeling that it's impressive."

"I should," Dan said, sitting down on the couch. Jeremy knew he should have gotten rid of it. Isaac had even told him when Jeremy took over the office but he hadn't listened. They came in, they sat down, they stayed.

"You could do it right now," Jeremy said.

"I could, Jeremy, but I don't think that's going to happen." Dan spread his arms along the back of the couch. "Justin Verlander, American League Rookie of the Year."

"It was pretty much him or Papelbon until the shoulder gave out. And it could have been Liriano if he'd stayed healthy," Jeremy said.

"But only one of them was pitching all the way into October." Dan smiled and somehow leaned back further. Jeremy didn't think it was possible for someone to look that relaxed, but somehow Dan was capable of it. He sighed.

"Not very well," Jeremy said. "You should add that when you blog about it."

"You're really obsessed with this blogging thing, Jeremy."

"It's in your contract, Dan. Three times a week."

"And I always get it done," Dan said. "Always."

"After we have this conversation for an hour every single day of the week. Add in another hour every single day for Casey and I'm spending two hours a day getting the two of you to do the job you said you would when you signed your contracts. I was there, Dan." Jeremy stopped himself from standing up or raising his voice. He was in charge. He had been in charge for eighteen months now. He could do this.

"They're very nice contracts," Dan said.

"Substantial raise," Jeremy said. "So don't tell me we're unfair to expect more work from you, because we're paying you more."

"You really are. But Jeremy, I think this would go better if you weren't so critical of my blogs."

"We have a philosophy," Jeremy said. "CSC is the sports channel that respects sabremetrics. We embrace statistics and we embrace --"

"Nerds everywhere, I know." Dan smiled. "I get it. I promise to mention WARP and VORP and Eqa+ and many, many other acronyms including TOTA, BFD+ and BABIP. Which is much more fun to say out loud than it is to think about the incredible lameness of knowing what it means."

Jeremy said, "At least two of those you made up."

"Yeah, but can you tell me which two? Hey, I play the game. I play all the games. I even do fantasy soccer."

"And we appreciate that," Jeremy said. "But it feels like you're not getting it."

"Because it's hooey."

"See, that's what makes me think you're not getting it. It's been a year, Dan. The ratings are up. Our website --"

"Has lots of nerds reading it." Dan sat forward. "Jeremy, I've heard the lectures, I've read the research. We're serving the modern fan, the guy who doesn't care anymore about his hometown team because he cares about his fantasy team instead, who only likes sports stories that are funny and make people look stupid, who has his own blog that he is absolutely convinced is way better than mine since he gets to say fuck. That's CSC's target audience."

Jeremy didn't let himself wonder if Dan would have said any of that to Isaac or Dana or even Natalie. None of them were there and Natalie didn't even work for CSC anymore. He said, "And we've got all of them watching our shows, Dan. And the guys who just love the game, any game. Who have a fantasy team that will never contain anyone who graduated from Notre Dame because they do have team loyalty, who have a blog because they can not stop talking about the New York Mets and actually, Dan, have as much experience playing or coaching professional sports as you do. So I think you should write your blog and I think you should stop feeling superior to our audience."

Jeremy took a deep breath and realized he was going to have to say all this to Casey, too, now that he'd finally broken down and lectured Dan. If only he'd cracked during a rundown so he could have killed both of his birds with one stone. Also, he needed to look up and see if Dan had reacted.

Dan was staring him down. Jeremy stared back. He was the boss. And better, he was right. Dan took a deep breath and stood up. "Okay, then. I'll go write my blog."

"Great," Jeremy said. His voice cracked in relief. But he was counting the whole thing as a win.

*

"It was a good plan," Dana said, stretching out on the couch.

"Should I be worried you just said was?"

Dana frowned. "It was a plan, now it's a philosophy. Like the butterfly, it has gone from caterpillar to pupa to butterfly."

"I think that's wrong," Jeremy said. "But I take your point I shouldn't worry."

"ESPN and Fox can get those ex-sports stars, pay 'em through the nose and hope they don't end up groping some girl at Boston Market. CSC is going to appeal with what we have. Nerds and stats."

Dana looked at her nails and adjusted her wedding ring. It surprised Jeremy every time he saw her that she was forty-one now. Forty-one, beautiful, happily married to Sam Donovan, and his boss. The Isaac to his Dana, to every Dana in the building.

He blinked and shook his head. "Can we stop calling them nerds? They're underserved fans," Jeremy said. "They were underserved. Now we serve them. Fans, like you and me." Jeremy would be watching CSC religiously if he didn't work there.

"Like you," Dana said. "I still think you can measure a pitcher by how many wins he has." She grinned. "I just say that to watch you turn red."

"Very funny," Jeremy said. "Natalie does that, too. She calls me from the MSNBC newsroom with their sports coverage in the background just to say it. I'm not that easy to bait."

"You're incredibly easy to bait," Dana said. "But I hear you talked to Dan, that's good."

"Where did you hear?"

"I heard from Asia," Dana said, doing that peculiar head shake she always did when she referred to Casey's wife.

"It's pronounced Uh-see-a," Jeremy said, cursing himself the minute the words escaped his mouth.

"And yet it's spelled Asia," Dana said, still shaking her head. "Why would you spell something one way and say it another way that's completely counter-intuitive? Why would you do that, Jeremy? I'll tell you why, because you want to raise a pretentious neurotic child that spends half her life telling people how to spell her name and the other half telling them how to pronounce it. Incorrectly."

"I think Asia spends half her life making more than me at her PR firm and the other half home with Casey," Jeremy said.

Dana stood up and put her hands down on Jeremy's desk. Jeremy made every effort to keep looking at her while she stared him down. She finally said, "A little revenge for the pitcher thing, huh?"

Jeremy smiled weakly. "She's really very nice, Dana." Today was apparently Jeremy's day for standing up and being the boss. Even if he wasn't actually standing up or the boss of Dana.

"I know. It's so annoying," Dana said. "And we have lunch sometimes because she's so nice and she thinks she can pump me for inside info so she can win the CSC basketball fantasy league again. Where she mentioned that Casey said you talked to Dan."

"I think I got through," Jeremy said. "We shouldn't be contemptuous of our fans, Dana. I'm really tired of it."

"Except they're all a bunch of nerds who live at home with their mothers." Dana grinned. "Just baiting you again."

"Some of them live in dorm rooms far away from their mothers. Some of them are even women," Jeremy said. She was already out the door, of course. "Some of them," Jeremy said, "are me."

*

"This is what gets me," Dan said. "I see your point, Jeremy. I really do. Your point is crystal clear. But I didn't get a math degree at Dartmouth. I think there's more to baseball, to football and to basketball and hell, even to figure skating than can be quantified with numbers. What about guts? What about grit? What about clutch hitting? Aren't you the one who said it was worth it to watch proud athletes fighting to the last?"

"A good ninth inning rally," Jeremy said. He played with his beer. They still came to Anthony's only now it was once a week, and only for an hour while they waited for their spouses and partners to come by so they could go home for the good stuff. It was the nicest part of being the boss. "I like the new ice skating scoring system. Have you watched ice dance lately?"

"No," Dan said. "I really haven't. I'm really missing something there, I guess."

"You're missing Tanith Belbin in tight outfits, that's for sure." Jeremy sipped his beer.

"I hear that," Dan said and knocked his beer into Jeremy's. "Does Natalie mind that you watch a lot of ice dancing?"

"She does not. And you know why?"

"Ben Agosto in tight pants," Dan said. Jeremy nodded and they knocked beers again. "But besides ice dancing, what sport is really being improved by our new obsession with statistics over story?"

"We know the story better," Jeremy said. "We know that not only is Albert Pujols a better hitter than Ryan Howard, but we can now tell you that in five different ways. We can spot the players who are going to be the next Albert Pujols better. And more than that, all this is in everyone's hands. Everybody gets to be part of the conversation. And that's sports, for you and me and everyone who isn't Albert Pujols: conversation. Entertainment. And there's nothing wrong with that. We're born, we grow up, we work to make money and support our families and then we die. In between there's a lot of time, Dan. And I think watching sports is a pretty good way to spend it."

"That's very eloquent," Dan said. "But it doesn't tell me why I should care about some jerk in Pella, Iowa who thinks I'm full of shit because I don't vote for Travis Hafner in the MVP race."

"Casey thinks Travis Hafner has a stake in the MVP race. Every argument we have in the office, everyone else is having. We just have a little more access and we get paid to argue. We're incredibly lucky and we need to remember that our salaries are effectively paid by everyone else who is having these arguments. They aren't the enemy, Dan. They're us."

"I don't like us," Dan said. He grinned. "But I have therapy for that, right?"

Jeremy laughed. "Now you get to convince Casey." He turned around when he heard his name. Natalie had just walked in, pulling off her hat and waving at him.

"Go home, Jeremy." Dan smiled. "We'll work on Casey tomorrow."

"We?" Jeremy put on his jacket and tried not to sound hopeful.

"Go home, watch your ice dancing." Dan got out his phone and started checking his voice mail. "Tomorrow we'll convince Casey that math is awesome. Promise."

Jeremy decided to take it as a win and argue semantics at the next rundown. He was having a winning day and he couldn't wait to tell Natalie all about it.

THE END


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