INTERIOR, HALLWAY OF A MANHATTAN LUXURUY HIGH RISE BUILDING.
Balls (checking address): This is the place.
[Knocks on door]
Balls: Ian, are you in there?
[Door cracks open]
Ian: Who is this? What are you doing here?
Balls: It’s me. Balls of Steel. I hope I haven’t caught you at a bad time.
Ian (flashing a confident smile): Not at all. I’m afraid my place is kind of a wreck though. I wasn’t expecting any guests.
Balls: Yeah, sorry man, I was in town and I just wanted to pop by on business.
Ian shuts the door for a second, and then opens to reveal a sparsely decorated, white walled apartment, with a view of Central Park. Ian is wearing a white contrasting collared shirt, with suspenders, and a pair of pinstriped suit pants.
Balls: Wow. This place is just…wow.
Ian: Can I get you a drink? I’ve really been getting into gin cocktails. So floral.
Balls: Sounds great. Listen, I just wanted to talk to you about your article on the Jaguars.
Ian: The what now?
Balls: The Jacksonville Jaguars. I know you’re new around the site, but we do a midseason review of all the teams during their bye week.
Ian: I know about the mid season reviews. I just did my entry on the Giants.
Balls: Right. But you’re also our Jaguars guy, so I need to know where you are with that.
Ian: I’m afraid that I don’t follow. (Begins to smile slowly as he enters the room with Balls’ drink) Are you putting me on?
Balls: Don’t do that. (grabs drink and takes a sip). Wow. Stiff.
Ian: Look, I don’t know what to tell you about these…Jaguars, is it?
Balls: You did the preview. Like two months ago. I’m not saying you have to put a positive spin on the season. You can rip them to shreds for all I care. Hell, the hotter the take, the better as far as we’re concerned. But you’ve gotta produce something. It’s in the contract.
Ian flinches momentarily, and then corrects himself offering a hearty laugh.
Ian: Well. I certainly don’t want to violate any agreements. But I’m afraid I’m drawing a blank. No, I would definitely remember a team like the Jaguars.
Balls: I’ll do all the heavy lifting. I’ll write the friggin piece if that’s what it’s gonna take. Just tell me what you think of Blake Bortles.
Ian: Not ringing a bell.
Balls pulls photo out of his pocket.
Balls: Jesus Christ. This guy. Tell me what you think of this guy.
Ian: Who is that supposed to be?
Balls: He’s their quarterback for crying out loud.
Ian: He looks like a 38 year old roadie for Sevendust.
Balls: So you do remember.
Ian clenches his jaw.
Balls: And what about Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Barry Church. They were supposed to lead the league in interceptions.
Ian: And I suppose they’re not.
Balls: Of course they’re not. Have you (tries to rise from chair, but stops himself) Whoa.
Ian: Are you feeling alright?
Balls: I’m fine. I’m just…I’m feeling a little dizzy.
Ian: I hope it’s not altitude sickness. The air gets a little thin up here on the 74th floor. Why don’t you just sit down.
Balls: Yeah. But like I was saying. What do you think about Leonard Fournette being rushed back from injury too soon?
Ian: I don’t think very much of it, to tell you the truth.
Ian retrieves a brass pitcher and refills Balls’ drink.
Ian: But that’s only because I don’t follow football, I’m afraid. I feel like it’s past it’s time, you know. It’s a game that thrives on the spectacle, but can it exist outside of the zeitgeist? (Ian forces a smile and shakes his head) I just don’t think so.
Balls: Wait…what do you mean you don’t follow football?
Ian: I’ve simplified my life. No more distractions. Do you like the Brooklyn Nets?
Ian presses a remote, and a screen lowers itself from the season, playing the Brooklyn Nets-Houston Rockets game.
Balls: I don’t…no, not really.
Ian: Their YES Network broadcasts were always something of a turnoff to me. It always seemed so…dark. Literally. Did you know they actually focus the lights so that the stands are intentionally darker than most. Their own fans literally hide in the shadows. As if the game is being played within a vacuum of time and space. (Starts to guffaw) Of course that’s not the reason that so many people have turned their attention away. After all, the team had commit one of the most boneheaded trades with the Celtics and crippled their chances for the better part of a decade.
Balls begins touching his face as he slumps into his chair.
Balls: So…you’re like…really going to watch every Brooklyn Nets game this year?
Ian: Yes. I am, Balls. Because I’ve learned that the game can transcend results. You know a lot of people, especially those in the NFL mindset, view everything as kill or be killed. But sports can be art. They can transcend the competition to become…something beautiful.
Balls: Yeah, well you still, like, need to do a Jacksonville Jaguars piece.
Ian walks behind Balls’ chair and opens a drawer.
Ian: You’re still not getting it.
Ian pulls out a Jalen Ramsey jersey and slips it over his shirt, checking in the mirror to see that his white collar is neatly pulled through the V-neck.
Ian: I’m my better self when I don’t focus on football. I’m my better self when people will just let me be with my mindless entertainment. But football demands tribalism. It demands that you feel the pain associated with every loss until you are scarred over.
Ian pulls a katana blade off the display case. He checks his quaffed hair in the reflection of the steel.
Ian: But some people feel the losses too badly. Some people don’t want to be reminded of the expectations they’d laid out on a team, only to watch them fall apart after a seemingly promising beginning. Some people recognize that sports really should be about distraction, and choose to let themselves drift toward mindlessness, rather than feed the voices in their head that agitate.
Ian shuffles over toward Balls’ chair, holding the blade an inch from the back of his neck.
Ian: AND FOR SOME OF US, THE BROOKLYN NETS REPRESENT THE PLATONIC IDEAL OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A SPORTS FAN IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Balls: Fine. You’re right.
Ian lowers katana blade.
Ian: What’s that?
Balls: I said you’re right. If it means that much to you, you don’t have to go and do a recap on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ian: Thank you.
Balls: But you’re a baseball guy, and we still haven’t read your take on the Red Sox winning the-
Ian slices Balls’ head clean off.