Lockout Lit: An excerpt from Lanny Chayefsky's "BETTWORK"

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" - Bruce Bennett

Lanny Chayefsky's searing exposé of the National Hockey League shows the ruthlessness of collective bargaining through the prism of commissioner Gary Bettman's shocking and unexpected descent into madness. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Bill Daly) and Best Set Design (podium or lectern).

INT. WESTIN TIMES SQUARE HOTEL, CONFERENCE ROOM - EVENING

On the small TSN show monitor, the footage flicks to DON FEHR being interviewed by a corps of correspondents inside the hotel.

FEHR: When you're engaged in a process like this, I don't think it's helpful to characterize questions like that. You've got to figure out an agreement if one's possible.

Nobody in the room is paying too much attention to Fehr, they are all watching the double bank of monitors which show GARY BETTMAN taking a podium. Bettman is drenched, hunched, breathless and quivering with energy, moving with single-minded purpose across the carpeted floor past cameras and a throng of bewildered and battered hockey journalists. On the show monitor, the film clip of Fehr has come to an end.

Suddenly, the obsessed face of Bettman, haggard, red-eyed with unworldly fervor, manifestly mad, fills the TSN screen.

BETTMAN: I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a lockout. Every player's out of work or scared of losing their contract, arenas are going dark, punk players are running wild on Twitter, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air's unfit to breathe and our words are unfit to read, and we sit and watch our TSN while some smiling Canadian talking head tells us today we lost eighteen million and twenty-one games, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We all know things are bad. Worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything's going crazy.

BETTMAN breathes heavily and blinks a mile-a-minute.

BETTMAN: So we won't negotiate any more. This process is finished. We'll sit in the house, and all we ask is please, we want to pay less money. Let me have my power play quarterback or starting goaltender, and I won't say anything, we'll leave you alone. For 10 years, we'll leave you alone. Well, that's not enough for some people. Some people have lied and denied and made a mockery of this negotiation. First they talk about pensions, then they talk about make whole and then they talk about contracts and they talk about I don't know what. They tell you were almost done and we're not almost done. We're not anywhere near done, for Christ's sake. Well, I'll tell you what I am. I'm mad. And I want you to get mad--

Another angle showing the rapt attention of the people in the conference room, especially of DARREN DREGER.

BETTMAN: I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to write your local paper or two-bit blogger in his mother's basement. [LHH editor's note: Hey!] Because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the lockout and the escrow and the revenue sharing and the Russians in the KHL that don't want to come back. All I know is first I had to get mad. I had to say, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more. I'm a human being, goddammit. My life, my title of commissioner, has value." So I want you to get up now. I want you to get out of your chairs and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, "Gary's mad as hell and he's not going to take this any more!"

The journalists are abuzz. Flash bulbs explode. Questions are hurled at Bettman in a massive cloud of noise. BILL DALY cracks a wry, satisfied smile as he looks down at his Blackberry.

BATTERMAN: (grabs DALY's shoulder): How many Tweetelers does this go out to?

DALY: They're called "followers," Bob. And there's a few million of them. I think our boss just made history.

Bettman continues to rail on, shivering, jittering, shaking and blinking, repeating the words, "Off the table. Off the table. Off the table. Off the table..."

___

God, I hope Chayefsky's ghost doesn't kill me.

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