It's three hours earlier in Los Angeles but Dan calls anyway, a moment of weakness while inching north through post-game traffic.
"Yello," she says, and for a second he thinks she's calling him a coward.
"Dan!" she says, then yells, "Casey, it's Dan!"
Dana says, "I caught the end of the Giants game, Daniel, and I'm not afraid to tell you they stink. I can smell them all the way over here. Isn't there something you can do about that?"
"I just sit in the booth, Dana. They don't actually let me call the plays."
"Shame. You looked good though. I wanted to pinch your little cheeks."
The make-up girls still think he's cute. It's not a full-time job, but he's got his foot in the door at ESPN and one day he'll squeeze his leg in, and an arm, and maybe his head, and he'll be sitting behind a sports desk again.
He changes the subject. "How's the producing gig going?"
"Amazing. No last second changes, no missing tape, no turkeys in the light grid."
"That last one was you."
"I know, and it added a dash of something. Suspense, danger. The thrill of knowing a twenty-pound turkey could land on your anchor at any moment. I miss it."
He doesn't say anything. He's out of subject changes.
"But it's good," she says. "I'm not as crazy as I used to be. They call me even-keel Dana."
"Nah, I made that up just now. But I had you going."
"Sure did," Dan says, wishing he could ask for Casey without it turning into a thing.
"You're coming down here for Christmas, right?"
"You remember I'm Jewish, right?"
"So we'll stock up on bagels and tube socks. No big deal. You can bring a date. You seeing anybody?"
Charlie comes on the line and Dan is saved from having to answer.
"Uncle Dan, guess what?"
"Hey, no problem, Chuck," Dana says, "I was just talking to Dan here."
"They're letting me take physics next semester," Charlie says, drowning her out. She mutters something and hangs up the extension.
"That's great, kiddo."
"I'll be the only freshman in the class," Charlie says. "Mr. Alvarado says earth science is a waste of my time."
"Duh," says Dan, who has only vague memories of high school science. "Why stare at worms when you can be doing things to other things, possibly with pulleys."
"And next year in AP Physics I'm going to build a catapult!"
"That," Dan says, "is totally cool." He waits to see if Charlie has any plans for undergraduate work, then says, "Hey, get your dad for me, will ya?"
"He's in his office," Charlie says, and Dan can hear him walking through the house from three thousand miles away, sneakers on hard wood, tile, pounding up a flight of stairs. Finally:
Dan's car talks to his cell phone. Jeremy set it up while Dan stood back and watched, afraid the car would be more popular than he was now that it could call his friends and order takeout. But now, with Casey's warm, familiar voice coming from the speakers it's like he's sitting right next to him.
"I can't believe Charlie's in high school," Dan says.
"Yeah. Yeah, he wants to be called Chuck now."
"Wow," Dan says.
"It's a bold move," Casey agrees. "So what's up?"
"Just calling to check in," Dan says, and it's not even a lie, really.
"Man, I'm swamped. I read five newspapers a day. And I'm totally sick of watching Fox News."
In the background, Dan can hear the television talking to itself. It's been seven months since Casey moved to Los Angeles. Dana was already there, producing a local morning show. Casey got a job writing fake news for a cable channel, bought a house, and talked Dana into marrying him. Sports Night has been off the air for more than a year and Dan still doesn't know what to do with himself. Casey tried to get him to move, but Dan won't leave New York, even if the subway freaks him out and the empty sky makes him jittery and sick. He bought a car, and he tries not to look up.
"I've been following this congressional page story for tomorrow's show and I missed the game. That's, what, your third this season?"
"Second," says Dan. "I'm like the substitute backup, but Terry's been out a lot."
"Still, that's good, getting your face out there."
His face used to be out there five times a week, twice a day, ad spots every hour. Now he's just a junior sportscaster, one more monkey in the barrel.
"Hey," Casey says, "don't tell anyone yet because it's not a sure thing, but they're talking about putting me on the air as a correspondent after the Christmas hiatus."
"That's great, Case. You'll be great."
"It'll be good to get back in front of the camera and read my own stuff. It's so weird hearing someone else use my script."
"Yeah," Dan says.
"Look, I gotta go. Hannity's about to strangle Colmes, but we'll see you in December, right?"
Dan wants to say something, but maybe he is a coward. Or maybe he's just tired of being the only one who remembers.
"Yeah," Dan says. "You'll see me."
This is what he remembers: ten years ago in Dallas, toasting their partnership in an office so new there weren't any chairs; eight years ago, Casey reciting the St. Crispin's Day speech in the lobby of the St. Paul Radisson; five years ago, finding out Casey turned down Late Night to keep working with him; two years ago, sending Casey flowers as a joke; last year, drunk and unemployed, falling asleep curled together in Casey's bed. And this year, what should have been their tenth year as partners, their ninth inning rally, spent on opposite coasts, different jobs, separate lives.
Next year, Dan promises himself. Next year he won't call.