Deadline Approaches at The Players' Tribune

EXTRA! EXTRA! A CLASSICAL EXCLUSIVE!
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The editor’s office is smaller than it used to be. They moved the city’s other major athlete newspaper, the Pro-Star Picayune, into Tribune’s newsroom to save money. Based on the dimensions, this office might have been a janitor’s closet before they laid off the janitor.

Still, Jeter has made this house a home. He glances over stacks of memorabilia -- his Rookie of the Year trophy, five World Series rings, and stacks of unopened gift baskets. There’s a letter from Kevin Durant, his favorite protege, thanking him for the advice about making it in journalism. He’s left room on the wall for the Pulitzer he hopes he’ll win.

But a newsman can’t ponder the future or live in the past. A newsman lives in the present. And tonight, Jeter worries. He still doesn’t have a big story.

The phone rings. It’s a familiar voice.

“Peyton give me something good,” Jeter says. “I need those scoops! Are you retiring or not?”

He does not get the answer he needs, and he slams the phone down. Massaging his temples, he tries to calm himself by picking up the local lamestream newspaper. Another story on the refugee crisis.

“Lousy lamestream media,” Jeter says. “Never telling the right story.”

He launches into a soliloquy, as most good editors do on deadline.

“So tough to be in this newspaper game,” he says. “Distribution numbers sinking. They’re firing all my friends. But where can I go? What else can these inkstained hands produce? This is what I was put on this earth to do. I must be a shining beacon in this media darkness. The media never gave me a fair shake. They never showed the real me.”

He stares forlornly at where the window would be if the Tribune hadn’t sold its corner offices to a firm that makes iPhone cases for your pets.

“I contain multitudes,” Jeter says. “They made me as milquetoast. MILQUETOAST!”

A knock at the door. They laid off the secretary a few months ago. It’s hard time for newspapers. He tightens his belt. The temp comes in, holding a silver serving dish.

“Knock knock. Did I hear someone say milk toast?”

“Not now, Kid.”

“I’ll leave this here, chief.”

Alex Rodriguez smiles and places the dish on the floor. He answers the phones and makes very little money. Working for experience, working for his dream. Anything to get your foot in the door at the Player’s Tribune. Jeter likes the kid’s work ethic. He calls him back in and apologizes.

“Deadlines, you know?” he says.

A-Rod nods. He knows. They all know. The clock is ticking.

---

Kobe Bryant, Editorial Director of the Player’s Tribune, takes another swig of weak coffee and refreshes twitter for the 100th time. A beret hangs off the corner of his computer, a reminder of the trip to France he has delayed and delayed since they replaced paid vacation with furloughs.

Kobe sighs. He used to have dreams. He was going to be a real writer. Such is life. He pulls out a notepad and quietly rereads a poem he has been working on.

"A love so deep I gave you my all… From my mind & body... To my spirit & soul…"

“Why do I bother?” he says. “No one even reads anymore.”

Jeter approaches. He’s holding a baseball bat in a friendly way. He carries it around when he meets with the team on deadline, to lighten the mood. He learned the trick at a leadership conference in Kalamazoo a few years back. He went as an excuse to visit his family, but he learned some valuable business tricks.

Kobe Bryant shudders. To him the bat is a reminder of the inevitable death of his entire professional existence.

“That was beautiful,” Jeter says.

“Eh,” Kobe says.

“Was that Byron?”

“Coach doesn’t really have time for poetry,” Kobe says. He smiles at Jeter, so the editor knows it’s a joke. Jeter smiles too. “Just something I’m fooling around with.”

“Hang in there, Mamba,” Jeter says.

“Right, chief.”

In the background, a round of applause comes from the investigative team. They’re having cake to celebrate another colleague’s early retirement. Jeter stares out over his team. At young Matt Harvey, his New York City Bureau chief, humping the phones for one last scoop. At senior editor Kevin Love, artfully crafting a headline that the readers will skim right past. To his social media director Chris Long, so young, so hungry. They’re all just trying to make it.

He strides back toward Bryant. He is tired of this. If the news industry is going down, The Player’s Tribune will go down swinging. It’s the bottom of the ninth, but this is far from over. He wishes Yogi Berra were still here. But he’s Mr. November. The Architect of the flip. El Capitan. He dove into the stands to catch a ball. He’s been bloody before. It ain’t over until it’s over.

He trusts his editorial instincts. It’s just crazy enough to work.

Derek picks up his editor phone and speed-dials the one man he knows he can trust. “Stop the presses, KD,” he says, and loves saying it. “We found our front page story.”

--

Later that night Derek Jeter takes the first copy of that day’s Player’s Tribune hot off the presses. The lead story is a poem by Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement. It is nearly 3 in the morning. No one else is around. He loves the smell of the ink. The heat of the newsprint. Hot off the presses. There is no crowd around to cheer him. But he enjoys the satisfaction of a job well done. He pumps his fist a little.

“Yeah Jeets,” he whispers. “Yeah Jeets.”


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