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The M — Henderson — 8:44 PM
Seated in a private dining room, higher and more exclusive than any of the host resort’s 390 rooms, the heads of America’s most influential entertainment corporations finish a meal as rich — and still unfulfilling — as their cloud-obstructed north-looking view of The Strip. Nestled away from the action and the crowds, these on-any-other-day-mega-high-rollers wait for the help to finish clearing the tables so they can continue their conversation.
Adam Silver: Here’s the bottom line, we’re plenty fortunate that our only real job is broker the play of these devoted professionals. So what if we have to take off a couple months? The fans will come back hungrier than ever but plenty appreciative that we didn’t listen to the feds and get everyone sick. And you know we’ll make it all back on the municipalities after the fact.
Rob Manfred: Oh easy for you to say! Nothing happens in the NBA until the last week of May anyways. We’re in Spring Training here — it’s the way we make all the money necessary to afford those empty stadiums for a third of the year! Look, people are going to be exposed. They know the risks. And if they are planning on going out — be it to a basketball game or a movie or a food truck round up — they’re going to find somewhere else to spend their dollars and develop their 2020 spring and summer habits. By the way, did that busboy seem to be trying to hold in a cough?
Niki Caro: That’s why we’re all meeting tonight, Rob! I’m delaying Mulan’s release. I know you all have to cancel with your crowds of thousands at a pop. I could have the entire entertainment market to myself for the next two weeks by simply paying for an ad in People. So don’t act like I’m here to victimize you, Manfred! You can’t even go one season without some player or team who is the face of your sport getting caught cheating.
Dan Snyder: Listen. This is not hard. This is a time of global crisis. Global. This is where we, as the greatest nation on the planet, get together and say, “don’t fucking worry about our stupid government, Republicans tend to create global crises when give power for more than 23 months. We’re putting our neighbors first.” This is about the American Spirit!
Silver: Don’t give me that shit, Dan! The Shield didn’t even bother to send a rep tonight. You’re here representing the advertising industry’s interests.
Snyder: An industry that can have up cancelation stamps over every Lakers billboard by Monday morning rush hour. Just say the word.
Manfred: No the American Spirit is about freedom. We aren’t commies. And it only hurts the elderly anyways! I mean, we not going to keep selling cars to the public because, like, some dude on probation runs down a family? Right? No no no — we keep things open. It’s life as usual. We might even get some good tweets! They got no hope against this virus thing but they know how to tweet millions in losses to us. Nah — no. This is just hysteria.
Caro: That simply can not be. There has to be some kind of room for compromise. Limited crows sizes and heightened safety? Temperature checks?
Manfred: No! Nothing! Do you hear me? THE! GAMES! WILL! CONTINUE!
— DOOR FLIES OPEN —
Mustachioed Man in the Glasses Well, if you all wouldn’t mind excusing my lateness now. It seems you all arrived early enough to take the best hangers just across the street at the Henderson Executive Airport.
Manfred: This is a closed meeting sir. So I’m not sure who let you in here but I’ve been to all of these and have never seen you so how about you give the powerful their space.
Mustachioed Man: Well, that’s because this is my first visit. Elbert Spring, Insurance Broker to the Elite. Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Manfred: Please. I’ve been doing business with Elbert Spring for a decade.
Mustachioed Man: But have you ever met him?
The man removes a Caran d’Ache Astrograph rollerball from his breast pocket and flips over the desert menu resting on the end of the table. His arm sweeping gracefully about the sheet while his left wrist twists the paper as the pen tail slowly detracts from the medium. He holds up the signature.
Silver: Goodness! That is the exact signature! I first saw it on the Lonzo Ball Insurance Policy. We’ve done so much business but only by mail. It is so good to meet you in person, Mr Spring.
Snyder: No way! I’ve done business with Spring for 15 years!
Spring: Yes, I appreciate that business very much. The little Reagan quote on your email signature made me become a Republican you know? That’s right. Gipper nailed it saying we needed to be one nation divided.
Snyder: Yeah, that was a good one. Wife was a huge whore, you know? Learned that from Robert Kraft.
Spring: So let me cut to the chase, ladies and gentlemen. This — this — virus. Is it a bit overblown? Sure. Is the panic as much the lack of leadership as it is the threat of illness? Yes. Bu bottom line, this isn’t a decision for us to make tonight. It’s a decision that was made 200 years ago. When you can help your neighbor, you do so. When making the call to cancel an event so people are safe, do so with confidence that you’re helping your community. Like it not, we are part of the fabric that is the United States — and, furthermore the numbers on your claims and premiums tell the same story — current events must be shut down.
Manfred: For how long?
Spring: Until August.
Manfred: Excuse me?
Caro: Ummmm, theaters are literally a week away from showing just two shows a day and charging $100 per ticket. Why would they stay shut a day longer
Spring: You think you can take the proper precautions. You say you care about the fans. I’m not going to look ten days into the future when everyone is side-eyeing their seatmate and secretly scolding you for letting in a potential hazard. I’m not going to look a week in the future where Joe Everyman gets nagged by his bored and exhausted wife to take her out to the one thing going on in town and ending up paying $367 for two tickets to 6am Jumanji and half a popcorn. I’m going to look ahead only to that re-opening day where the fathers are bringing their sons to the game because, dang it Rob, they missed America’s great summer pastime and, in his heart, Dad knowns and appreciates that you didn’t thump your chest and cry about buying tickets to Spring Training because of The American Spirit, which he knows is paired with The American Flesh, which is spongy and bruised.
Silver: But August will have cost us our whole playoffs. And the NFL will be on schedule. The NFL will consume the sports landscape and anyone who tries to wedge in there will surely be destroyed.
Spring: Right. You call the season and for another ten years your talking heads can debate what LeBron could have or wouldn’t have been with a full 2020! This is the long game. This is small percentage of your paycheck that you grab and throw into your 401k when the market is down. And the market is down, gentlemen.
Spring: Listen darling. I was right about bringing in real snakes on your set. It looks as great and you didn’t lose one day on the film! And I was right about the NBA looking the other way on players smoking weed. Any one lawsuit would cost you $100 million minimum! I was right about just killing the Astros thing about one news cycle. Look at me — I’m right!
Manfred: Mark my words. You wait til August and people just forget about their midyear habits. They spend Saturdays enjoying the weather, reading books, and sitting by the lake. They assemble in small neighborhood gatherings where they know everyone is being prudent and safe and, most of all, they remember how bad we gave it to them. The shock of $14 beers on gameday returns. They wonder why they should be paying to upgrade your stadiums when their local parks aren’t even clean enough to host youth soccer games on Sundays. We have to be up in some kind of capacity — playing in half-full high school stadiums or an amended basis with complete television access — within two weeks or we all become the biggest victims of this pandemic.
Spring: I appreciate your enthusiasm but I did not budget time for a conversation. Read your policies. You close the doors now, earn some goodwill, and everyone will be made whole for what you’ve done in 2020. Push the issue to the weekend and I look forward to hearing the conversations about your judgement at the pubs on Sunday morning during the Newmantle game or whatever.
Caro: This is not how these conversations work now, Mr Spring! Now please step back in and —
Spring: This is how tonight’s conversation goes. Now, you may waste your time discussing further but, if I were any of you, I may want to race to see who is early enough to not be criticized for being too late on this decision. But what do I know? I’m just a name on a piece of paper. A very powerful piece of paper.