for love of the game

Author: Minervacat
Fandom: Sports Night
Rating: G
Summary: "There is no point here," Danny said. "Just a story we've got to put a good spin on, and how do you spin 24 losses by an average of 26 points into something good?"

"Savannah State's basketball team is 0-23."

"Twenty-four, actually," Casey said. "They lost again on Monday."

"And in 1999, Grinnell College took 86 three-pointers in one game," Dan said. "But that doesn't make them newsworthy."

"Sure it does," Casey said. "That's a lot of three point shots. And a lot of losses."

"And it's a slow news day," Kim said, sticking her head through the door. "Dana says do a feature on freak show teams in college basketball, you do a feature on freak show teams in college basketball. Danny, the AD at Savannah State's on the phone for you. Line 3."

Danny swung his chair around and punched at the buttons on his phone. "Mr. O'Neal? This is Dan Rydell at Sports Night. Thanks for getting back to me; I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about your men's basketball team this year ..."

Casey stood up and walked out into the news room. Elliott was reading the box score from the last Grinnell College game out loud; Jeremy was staring mutely at his computer screen; Dana and Natalie were nowhere to be seen.

"They really, truly haven't won yet this year," Jeremy said wonderingly. "I wonder if their team is entirely made up of people like me."

"People like you?" Casey asked, leaning against Jeremy's desk.

"Short white guys who can't jump and can't run," Jeremy said. "A team full of guys like me would definitely lose every game."

"But at least they're trying," Casey said.

"They're not!" Danny said from the door of their office. "They're not trying at all! They've never even lead at halftime this season! This isn't a losing streak, this is a season-long shellacking!"

"I wonder if the Grinnell scoring machine went up against them, would Savannah State win?" Jeremy said.

"NCAA regulations prohibit Division 1 schools from playing Division 3 schools," Danny said distractedly. "But Grinnell would probably win. The Savannah State AD wanted to know if this was going to be a negative story. I told him no, because what am I suppose to say? We're going to mock your school on national television?"

"Are we going to mock them?" Casey asked.

"What else can we do?"

"There are 330 Division 1 schools with men's basketball teams," Natalie's voice said from behind them.

"Where the hell did you come from?" Casey said.

"Dana's office," Natalie said. "No, listen to me: there are 330 Division 1 men's basketball teams in the country. 25 are ranked every week, maybe 40 get national attention every year, and 65 get to go to the tournament, some of those by the grace of God alone. And you know most of them by name – the North Carolinas, the Arizonas, the Indianas. But if 65 go to the tournament, that's what, 265 who don't? Think about it."

"You have clearly surpassed living in the realm of the surreal and moved into the realm of the crazy like a loon, Natalie," Danny said. "This has nothing to do with Savannah State, they're clearly not going to the Big Dance in any universe."

"265 teams, with scholarships to give and rosters to fill, and they're not springboards to the NBA like the SEC or the Big East. So you get kids like Jeremy to play, because they love to play," Natalie said.

"Still missing the point here," Casey said.

"There is no point here," Danny said. "Just a story we've got to put a good spin on, and how do you spin 24 losses by an average of 26 points into something good?"

"They're just kids, Dan," Natalie said. "They're not playing in the NBA. Even the kids who play for Duke, they're just kids. They're, what, 18, 19, 20 years old? What were you doing at 19?"

"Flunking astronomy," Dan said. "And the Dartmouth basketball team was losing quite handily without my help that season."

"And some of these players are going to huge schools where they're treated like gods! But who goes and plays at places like Savannah State? Maybe a couple of out-of-state recruits, maybe, because they want to play and it doesn't matter where. But mostly just kids who're already there."

"You can't expect much out of a team that's made up of people who happen onto the roster by chance," Jeremy said.

"Somebody once said that," Casey said. "Somebody famous, like Red Auerbach. That collegiate sports recruiting was ridiculous, that it took all the competition and good coaching out of the game – they said that college teams should be the way they used to be, where you played with the kids who happened to go your school and I played with the kids at mine, and it wasn't all about blue chip recruits."

"The median SAT score at Grinnell College is in the 1200s," Jeremy said. "You want to know the median SAT score on the Duke basketball team?"

"So they're just kids," Dan said. "So they're doing their best. Their best is terrible!"

"And if you asked them," Natalie said, "they'd all tell you that yeah, it sucks losing like this, but losing and playing is better than not playing at all."

"How do you know so much?" Danny asked. "Since when are you the official Sports Night recruiting expert, huh?"

"Look," Natalie said. "I had this friend in high school, and he played football. He wasn't a stud, but his grades were okay and he was a pretty good player, nothing special but pretty good all the same, and he got a full ride to play football at Truman State University in Missouri. They're not on TV unless Missouri beats them good and hard, and sometimes not even then. But he got to keep playing for a couple of years, and he got his education paid for."

"So?" Dan said, and Casey and Jeremy just stared at her.

"So maybe all this team needs is a little encouragement. Instead of laughing at them with the rest of the country."

"They're just kids," Jeremy said. "I bet some of them jump like me."

"How's that again?" Casey said.

"Not at all," Jeremy grinned. "The kids at Grinnell aren't on scholarship at all. Division 3. No athletic scholarships."

"It's really just about the love of the game," Natalie said.

"Only in my universe does losing 24 straight games equate to the love of the game," Danny grumbled.

"86 three-pointers, Danny," Casey said. "That's a lot of love."


Author's Notes: The Savannah State men's basketball team finished 0-28 this season. The Grinnell College men's basketball team really does lead Division 3 men's basketball in scoring, and has every year for the last ten.

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