I credit a lot of my interest in sports to a little show called Sports Night, which had nothing to do with sports.
Before Aaron Sorkin was lecturing us from Ararat on his wildly successful show The West Wing, he had a half-hour comedy/drama set behind the scenes at a cable network’s evening sports show. Peter “Six Feet Under” Krause and Josh “Dead Poets’ Society and Nothing Really Good Since” Charles played the head writers and broadcasters, Casey McCall and Dan Rydell (as American a pair of names as you could hope to read on TV). Felicity Huffman played the show’s director, and Robert “Benson” Guillaume its executive producer.
Sports Night gave me a better look at the haphazard chaos that goes into putting together the glossy melange of CGI transitions that is a cable sports show. Each episode of the fictitious TV show has a certain number of segments. Their currency is minutes, and the writers and producers have to fill those minutes with video segments and commentary.
Actual sports content appears pretty rarely in the show. In typical Sorkin fashion, the focus is more on controversial players than interesting games. There’s the football player who roughs up women (“Mary Pat Shelby”), the college players from a Tennessee school who refuse to play under a Confederate flag (“The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee”), or a baseball player who disses his new team’s hometown on the air (“Shane”). It’s heavy on the preachy melodrama, which you wouldn’t think a show about sports would merit.