Sam Donovan: I’ve noticed you people have an ability to chatter at someone with energy and enthusiasm regardless of whether they seem interested or not.
Dan Rydell: And that’s not just on camera.
A few of you responded to my Sports Night anniversary column yesterday, which I got a kick out of. It always makes me smile to know that I’m not the only one who still remembers my favorite TV show. (And it made my day when I found out that series star Josh Charles had favorited it on Twitter. Considering he was my favorite on the show, that’s a nice feather in my cap.)
Some of you asked about the other stories that I left out of that article. The truth is that there are a lot of stories, more than would ever fit in a whole series of articles. But because you asked, and for my own amusement as well, I figured I’d devote a blog to seeing how many of them I can count – at least until this blog becomes too long, anyway.
Lo and behold, the list of things I can blame on Sports Night, in absolutely no order.
- This is the show that inspired me to be a professional screenwriter.
- It completely changed the way that I write. Aaron Sorkin is the single biggest influence on me as a writer.
- It’s also the show that motivated me to audition to be an ESPN SportsCenter anchor, because Sports Night made anchoring sports seem like fun again.
- As you might know, it was my initial ESPN audition that led me to my first major professional writing job, as a sportswriter for eSports Media Group.
- And that was how I met the person who kickstarted my career, and who is still a supporter of mine today, professional poker player Phil Gordon, who was at the time the host of Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown.
- Phil’s inviting me to the show led me to meet Sports Night star Joshua Malina (who played Jeremy Goodwin), because Josh was by then an executive producer of Celebrity Poker Showdown.
- Josh Charles (who played Dan Rydell) was my first celebrity crush. Peter Krause (who played Casey McCall) was my second. In fact, they’re both still ridiculously good-looking.
- Sports Night was what I bonded over with my best friend of now more than a decade. We met just as I was discovering the show and we’ve both been huge fans of it since. (We even used to have Sports Night movie nights where we’d watch a marathon of films the cast had been in. We’re nerds.)
- Every year, my best friend calls me to say happy NFL Draft Day, in honor of the Sports Night NFL Draft Day two-part episode.
- Thanks to the show, I will always remember where Helsinki is.
- And who Cliff Gardner is.
- And who Thespis was.
- And the difference between grey and gunmetal.
- Sports Night also helped me get through the death of my childhood best friend, as I mentioned in yesterday’s column. I watched pretty much the entire series as a crutch for the few months I struggled through the grieving process.
- One of the best moments of my life happened five years ago, when I told that story to Peter Krause at a Q&A for his second ABC show, Dirty Sexy Money. I had just meant to thank him, but got so overwhelmed with emotion that I spilled that bit. Not only did the entire room give me a round of applause, but Peter actually came over to me after the panel, introduced himself, and talked to me one-on-one for a few minutes. I’m not going to lie, I left that theater and had to sit down and have a good cry after that.
- And that moment with Peter was what motivated me to get into entertainment blogging…and you know now how that eventually turned out.
- Sports Night led me directly to The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, Moneyball, and The Newsroom.
- Therefore, I credit Sports Night for everything I achieved through the above, including covering The Good Guys (Bradley Whitford’s post-The West Wing show), which is how I found out who RonReaco Lee was, and then I ended up meeting him at a BET premiere and becoming friends with him specifically because we connected about The Good Guys.
- When it comes to The Newsroom, I’ve so far been able to meet Sam Waterston, John Gallagher, Jr., Olivia Munn, and Thomas Sadoski. If you liked that feature on Thomas Sadoski I did earlier this year, you can ultimately thank Sports Night.
- I can’t get into the Newsroom portion without referring to how I finally met Aaron Sorkin earlier this year. Having my hero tell me that I made his night is one of the moments I’m going to hold onto forever. Before that, I had once sent him a fan letter, and he sent me back an autograph that’s now framed in my office. Pretty damn cool.
- The number of indirect connections the show helped me make is pretty damn long. For example, Sports Night prompted me to watch Felicity Huffman and Brenda Strong in Desperate Housewives, which made me a fan of Steven Culp, which was why I watched a show called Traveler, that introduced me to Matt Bomer, who was the reason I watched White Collar, which co-stars Tim DeKay, who guest starred on Sports Night. I can do that with several dozen other things and people, but I’m not going to here, because I want you to keep reading. Just know it’s a really, really long list.
- Here’s one big one: the only reason I went to see S.W.A.T. was because Josh Charles was in it. That’s the movie in which I discovered Jeremy Renner. So it’s the show’s fault I’m a Renner fan.
- It also introduced me to Todd Thibaud, whose song “Sweet Destiny” was heard in Season 2 of the show.
- It gave me the idea to go as Natalie Hurley for Halloween, and dress up as Sabrina Lloyd playing Natalie Hurley for a high school skit. Nobody else knew what the hell I was doing either time, but I got a kick out of it.
- Because someone compared Aaron Sorkin to David Mamet, Sports Night is responsible for me discovering the works of David Mamet.
- I’m not even counting the number of times I’ve quoted the show, written about the show, or written something that I can somehow trace back to the show. Just from what I remember off the top of my head right now, this moment, I’ve written at least four characters with Josh Charles in mind, and at least two for Peter Krause. There are Sports Night nods all over my last pilot, On The Wire, which also takes place behind the scenes of a national TV show. Like that I named my main character Dan. Not on purpose, but these things just happen.
- I’ve also had the chance to talk about the show with Sabrina Lloyd (who played Natalie Hurley), Brenda Strong (who played recurring character Sally Sasser), Alanna Ubach (who guested as Catherine Brenner), W.G. Snuffy Walden (composer) and Tim DeKay (who guested as Ray Mitchel). I just need to meet Josh Charles, Felicity Huffman and Robert Guillaume and I’ll have achieved my lifelong goal of personally thanking the entire main cast of the show for changing my life. Call me sappy, but I think they deserve it.
I think this list is getting a bit long now, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. I think I’ve made my point: Sports Night is, in my life, the single most important piece of entertainment that has or ever will exist, because I can trace back life-changing events to it, as well as countless other little things, and because I just love it more than I’ve ever loved any other TV show or movie, ever. Even 15 years and so many reruns later, it still affects me just as much as it did the first time. I can only hope that when I get to be on that side of the camera, I can make something that changes somebody’s life like Sports Night changed mine.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some episodes to watch…