Sports Night/The Head Coach, Dinner and the Morning Mail

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The Head Coach, Dinner and the Morning Mail
Season 1, Episode 6
Airdate October 27, 1998
Production Number N-306
Written by Matt Tarses
and Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Thomas Schlamme
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Sports NightSeason One

The Head Coach, Dinner and the Morning Mail is the sixth episode of the first season of Sports Night.

With Natalie under pressure, her work becomes unreliable. Casey has harsh words for a college football coach. Jeremy loses sleep over death threats, and Dana advises him to share his real feelings for Natalie, who can't stand her coworkers' pity. Where should they go for dinner?

Starring: Josh Charles (Dan Rydell), Peter Krause (Casey McCall), Felicity Huffman (Dana Whitaker), Joshua Malina (Jeremy Goodwin), Sabrina Lloyd (Natalie Hurley) and Robert Guillaume (Isaac Jaffe),

Guest Starring: Kayla Blake (Kim), Greg Baker (Elliott), Ted McGinley (Gordon)

Co-Starring: Ron Ostrow (Will), Jeff Mooring (Dave), Timothy Davis-Reed (Chris)


Plot Overview

In between live segments, Dan and Casey suffer in the studio because of non-functioning heaters. In the control room, Natalie feels plenty hot after she misplaces an important tape, forcing Dana to rearrange the schedule, but Dana doesn't come down hard on her for the gaffe. Dan criticizes Casey for being too hard on Rostenkowski, the head coach of his (Casey's) alma mater, but Casey waves it off, saying it's his job as a commentator and pundit.

The next day, Natalie continues to act distracted. The staff cuts her slack, but she resents the treatment. Casey continues to vent about Rostenkowski calling a bad play in last night's game. A very sleep-deprived Jeremy bursts in on a meeting between Isaac and Dana because he's found a death threat while snooping through Natalie's e-mail. Jeremy cracked her network password in order to prevent her from seeing the message, but she'd already shown it to CSC security.

In the main office, Casey exults in reading supportive fan mail. While speaking to Dana, he notices that she's wearing an attractive purple outfit. He knows why, but forces Dana to say it anyway: she has another dinner with Gordon that will likely end in sex. Casey makes a show of how non-interested he is with this news, but inwardly seethes. In a conference with Jeremy, Dana compliments him on his concern, and she makes clear to him what's already obvious to everyone else: he likes Natalie, and she's been throwing herself at him. Dana advises him to take Natalie out to a quiet dinner, but to get some sleep first.

While Casey preps new and embarrassing sound effects to mock Rostenkowski on the show, Jeremy asks Dan for advice on choosing an appropriate restaurant to take Natalie for dinner. Rather than sleeping, Jeremy's been using a programming a computer to make the selection based on menu, price, ambiance, etc. Dan advises him not to look for a specific restaurant, but rather to create a feeling of welcome and comfort.

Gordon visits the studio, and despite a frosty reception from Casey, Gordon commiserates with him on Rostenkowski's poor performance. But when confronted with the question of what he would do differently, Casey must admit that the head coach operates under extreme time pressure in the face of thousands of screaming fans, so he has no idea what play would have worked better. Seconds before the show opens, Casey reluctantly cancels his hatchet job on the coach.

Later on during the broadcast, Dan is forced to improvise when Natalie forgets to put text on the teleprompter. When Dana urges Casey and Dan to let her slide, Natalie overhears and loses her temper, rejecting the leniency everyone's been giving her. Dana tries to explain that by helping Natalie, everyone feels less helpless. Natalie storms out of the studio, intending to leave the building, but she stops when she sees Jeremy asleep on the office floor.

Before succumbing to exhaustion, Jeremy had spread a blanket on the floor and laid out wine and candles. Initially put off by the charity, Natalie softens when Jeremy admits that he likes her. She sits down on the floor with Jeremy, allowing him to rest his head on a pillow. Before leaving, Dana gently admonishes Natalie for her poor performance. While Jeremy sleeps on the pillow in her lap, Natalie contemplates what Dana had said about "the gift of receiving."


  • By coincidence or by design, this episode features many references to Broadway musicals. Dana refers to Man of La Mancha when speaking to Jeremy, even quoting from it's most popular song. Dan mentions Gershwin and Cole Porter, who between the two of them have written dozens of musicals. Dan also mention Damon Runyon, whose books would form the basis of Guys & Dolls. Even former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was the subject of a 1959 musical called, appropriately enough, Fiorello! The song this episode fades out with is itself from "Oh, Kay!", an early Gershwin musical. This is not the last time showtunes will play a role on Sports Night.

Arc Advancement


  • Because of Natalie's complaint against Christian Patrick, she has had reporters calling her and taking her picture. She's also been receiving angry letters and at least one death threat. It's apparently serious enough that CSC security has contacted the FBI.
  • Jeremy admits his feelings to Natalie, and tries to have a candlelit dinner in the office. Instead, he falls asleep due to extreme exhaustion.




The Show

  • Tony Orlando was born Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis in New York City, not Greece. So Dan is technically wrong, although the singer is of Greek and Puerto Rican descent.
  • The music at fade-out is a piano instrumental of Gershwin's "Someone To Watch Over Me."
  • Among Jeremy's candleholders is a holder shaped like a a guitar, and another shaped like a basketball.

Behind the Scenes

  • In the final shot, when the camera slowly tracks backwards from Natalie and Jeremy, the flatness of the fake NYC skyline behind them is plainly visible. Obviously the Sports Night backdrop was not designed to be shot from that angle!

Allusions and References

  • After Dana calls Jeremy "quixotic", she says that his love for Natalie has been "pure and chaste from afar." This is a line from [[wikipedia:Man of La Mancha|"Man of La Mancha"], a Broadway play based on the Don Quixote story.

Memorable Moments

  • Casey reads fan mail from a woman in Baton Rouge saying that she thinks Dan is hot
  • Casey demonstrates the "crash and burn" sound effect in the control room
  • Dan marvels at the New York City skyline while advising Jeremy about restaurants
  • Dan informs the TV audience about the origin of Tony Orlando!
  • Natalie loses her temper with Dana and the air team, wanting to be yelled at
  • Jeremy rests his head on Natalie's leg - a tender ending for this episode


  • (Natalie has misplaced a tape.)
    Jeremy: This is professional television. Surely there's some kind of strict procedure that's followed when something like this happens.
    Dana: Absolutely.
    Jeremy: What is it?
    Dana: Well first, everyone stand up and see if you're sitting on it.
  • Dana: You figured out her password?
    Jeremy: I thought, you know, how many six-letter words could there be?
    Dana: Um, five thousand.
    Jeremy: Fourteen thousand, two hundred and change, but I got it on the thirty-eighth try!
  • Casey: (reading fan mail) You're my favorite sports anchor ever! I never used to like sports, but you've so gotten me into it! Maybe because you're totally hot! Look me up, Tracy Devareaux, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
    Kim: You made that up.
    Casey: (shows her the letter) What's that say?
    Kim: It's addressed to Dan.
  • Casey: You look nice today.
    Dana: Great!
    Casey: Ah ah ah! No no no! I said "You look nice", that's your cue to say "thank you."
    Dana: Thank you.
    Casey: Why do you look nice?
    Dana: Because I am nice.
    Casey: You can say it, Dana.
    Dana: I don't want to say it.
    Casey: You do want to say it.
    Dana: I don't want to say it and you don't want me to say it.
    Casey: I do want you say it and then I want you to see how much I don't care when you do.
    Dana: What's in it for me?
    Casey: Nothing.
    Dana: I am dressed this way because I'm having dinner with Gordon after the show. I'm having dinner with Gordon and I'm dressed this way because it's been my experience that when I do, Gordon becomes quite amorous, and it's my hope that Gordon act on his impulses this evening, quench his desire, and in so doing (sighs) quench mine. You happy?
    Casey: That's all I wanted.
  • Casey: Kim? Make a note: I need to ruin Dana's dinner with Gordon.
  • Jeremy: (re: Natalie's affection for him) I've had this sense, it's a faint, subtle thing, but--
    Dana: She's been throwing herself at you.
    Jeremy: See, I didn't get that.
  • Casey: How am I conversationally anal-retentive?
    Dana: Let me answer that question in four parts, with the fourth part first and the third part last. The second part has five subjects--
    Casey: All right, all right.
  • (Dana cannot locate the "crash-and-burn" sound effect for the show)
    Dana: Yeah.
    Casey: Really?
    Dana: Yes!
    Casey: Make the sound that you made.
    Dana: Casey, I made the sound!
    Casey: Make it!
    Dana: Oooooor-kssss!
    Casey: Ah...
    Dana: What?
    Casey: That's not the sound.
    Dana: That's the sound!
    Casey: (walks over to the tech's desk) Chris? Will? Be with me now: EEEERRRRRRRRR-BWOOOOOOOOH!
    Will: Crash and burn.
    Casey: Can you do it?
    Chris: Got it.
  • (Dan advises Jeremy on restaurants)
    Dan: Make it someplace that you like. Restaurants, they don't impress women as much as we think they do, and food always tastes good on the first date. You're not in Vegas, and you're not in L.A... you are in the most magnificent city in the world. It's the city of Gershwin and Cole Porter, Damon Runyon and Fiorello LaGuardia. Surprise her, but make her feel comfortable. Make it different, but make her feel at home. But mostly, make it someplace that you like.
    Jeremy: Where is that restaurant?
    Dan: I'll let you know when I find it.
  • (Gordon visits the studio)
    Gordon: Boy, this place really hops at showtime, huh? It's like a real television show!
    Casey: Yeah, we got cameras and everything.
  • Dana: (to Gordon) You don't have to talk to Casey if you don't want to, and if he says anything you don't like, you should feel free to take a swing at him.
  • (Dan is forced to ad-lib a segment.)
    Dan: You know, here at Sports Night we get a lot of mail. Most of it goes something like this: Casey, Dan, you two obviously know a lot about sports (looks around) ...but what can you tell us about legendary Italian song stylist Tony Orlando? Well--
    Pre-recorded voices: YOU SHOULD KNOW!
    Dan: You should know that Tony Orlando is not Italian. And if you guessed that the man was of Latin descent, you'd be incorrect as well. Mr. Tony Orlando hails from Greece!... We thought you should know that.
  • Casey: (on-air) It's a holiday weekend, so if you're driving out to the stadium tomorrow, please, please remember to take your car.
  • Natalie: Look, all I want is to get it right, and when I don't I expect to be treated like a professional: I expect to be yelled at.
  • Dana: (to Natalie) When someone's feeling helpless, about the nicest gift you can give is to let them help you. It's the gift of receiving, as opposed to giving, and that's a gift you're in a position to give right now. Does that make sense?
    Casey: I couldn't follow that.
    Dana: And was I talking to you?