A couple weeks ago I saw some Shakespeare in the Park. It was a fun production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I was inspired. What follows is the very really, not even remotely made up, first meeting in the Bobby Portis contract negotiations, exactly as it happened… Or so I heard.
Bobby Portis sits in a boardroom. Enter Agent Bartelstein.
Agent: Hail Portis! Merry do I meet you, but much surprised to find you here. I did not think you had a mind for these negotiations.
Portis: Well met, kind Agent Bartelstein! My mind I find in anxious distress, when pondering an extension with such an august organization as the Bulls. My future, yea my very life, does this meeting direct.
Agent: Indeed. Much rides for you on what we can scratch from GarPax. No easy task have we before us, hence, while we have a moment together let us strategize your desires.
Portis: Simply put: respect, time, and money.
Agent: Time and money are in my power to attain. Respect is a virtue only others may grant you gain. The contract, how long? for 3? 4 years?
Portis: As long as we can make it.
Agent: $15 million per year?
Portis: More! If we can have it. Remember my running mate Felicio, and our newest friend Jabari. A kings ransom in years or dollars have they won, yet not so much as half the respect I have earned on this team.
Agent: Tis true! And we are of a similar mind.
Portis: Now our parameters set. I know keen Agent, you have much experience bartering with Bulls. I am but a novice in such markets. What, kind Agent, must I expect from the GarPax?
Agent: They will play it strict.
Portis: Strict? How mean you?
Agent: Strictly from their character. Both Pax and Gar, confined in who and what they are, a sort of Janus in the pantheon of basketball execs, one swaddled in honor, the other shadowed in fear.
Portis: I had heard them called “two-faced” by others who have bartered and bantered with the pair, count me surprised to hear it from kind Bartelstein.
Agent: It is with no malice that I describe them such. They are of two minds. And, in as much, we must divide and conquer. I have a plan.
Portis: Lay it before me, master Agent, brick by brick, that we may together build the foundation for our success.
Agent: The right hand must not know what the left is signing. That is, we must keep GarPax separate. The man we must entice is Gar, from him may be bought money. The man we must revolt is Pax. He is too stiff to bend to our will.
Portis: How shall we both entice yet revolt? The two seem much the opposite.
Agent: As you say, and so too the men we wish to divide. How do you know them both to be?
Portis: I know Pax to hold his honor in high regard. Never did he besmirch his name, nor the name of his team. He is upright, like a flag pole. He ranks lesser than himself anyone who cannot reach the lofty heights of his expectations.
Agent: That is much like I have found him. And Gar?
Portis: Not so high and mighty. He follows in Pax wake, invisible behind such a large shield of honor. Rarely does he make a show of himself, fearful that he will be ill received.
Agent: Quite so, it is this fear we must draw forth… But hark! Keep still a moment. A shrill voice I hear, calling from beyond boardroom door. It sounds of Young Reinsdorf, and the very men about which we have spoken.
Enter foppish Young Reinsdorf, severe Pax, and nervous Gar.
Reinsdorf: …and I said ‘Puh-Paw! Must we wait til the Lake swallows our fair Chicago before we host again? Even the Mayor has given his blessing for an All-Star Gala! Shall we not show the world how we party in the Midwest?’ So of course the old miser consented – By Olajuwon’s Beard! Is this not Crazy-Eyed Portis I see before me? How now Slugger? You’ve quite concussed my train of thought.
Portis: Hail masters Reinsdorf, Pax and Gar. Thank you for seeing us.
Reinsdorf: Who else is us?
Agent: Tis I young Reinsdorf, Bartelstein.
Reinsdorf: Ah-ha a thief in my mansion! Come to steal more of mine, good Agent? Pax, Gar, Not a penny more to these beggars, Bartelstein has just asked 20 for my neighbor Jabari.
Agent: 20 of yours say you? What of your father, the elder Reinsdorf? Does he not still run these Bulls?
Reinsdorf: My father, while still in good health, spends all his remaining time mending Sox. So it falls on my head to guide his most successful franchise. And my head did just command the beggars turned out.
Portis: Surely you jest.
Reinsdorf: Every waking moment young Tyson, yet call me not Shirley.
Portis: A rogue, young sir, an ever cunning rogue!
Reinsdorf: And on that high note I shall guide myself out! Glower not Sir Pax, or, if that trick prove impossible, glower less. My friend Portis seeks to stay a Bull, a happy thought in my minds eye. Sir Gar, treat him and Agent fair. Ever the love of my father has House Bartelstein. I will away!
Gar (muttering): Now begins the afternoon of my discontent…
Pax (seething): Speak as to be heard, Gar! Hail Agent! Hail Portis! Hast though come to sue for peace?
Agent: We come to… sue… for a piece? Or more precisely, several million pieces.
Pax: What say you Agent? Several million pieces? I should like the young lord said and turn away such brazen beggars!
Agent: Beggars sir? Faith we come to negotiation an extension for Honorable Portis.
Pax: Honor? What knows Portis of honor?
Portis: Good Sir! I come with honorable intentions.
Gar (muttering): intentions… extensions…
Pax: Speak as to be heard, Gar! Portis, you have made a mockery of my beloved team. And now you seek to make a mockery of me.
Portis: Kind Sir, I protest! I have not, nor do I wish to mock the Bulls or the Bull before me.
Gar (muttering): Foul! … A most flagrant foul!…
Pax: Speak as to be heard, Gar!
Agent: How mean you mockery, sir!!??
Pax: Last summer, I dismantled the very dreams of Chicago, sending Butler to that leech Thibs, promising a new day to follow. I sowed the seeds of sweetest success. Conjured a culture of clean competition. Brazed a band of brand new brothers. Markkanen, Dunn, LaVine, a new day had dawned. I entrusted the reins of my miraculous creation to none other than your ‘Honorable’ Portis, and how he did betray my trust! One punch, and all my team, all my dreams, my honor, turned to dust.
Portis: I did but DEFEND my honor from that nefarious Niko.
Pax: And by defending so blemished not only your soul, but the entire Bulls!
Agent: Sir! This is too much!
Pax: Fie! It is not enough! As it is, his hay-maker has already transported fair Niko to New Orleans. I wish with all my soul that I could cast Portis to the very depths of Sacramento for his sin! MY honor stops me short.
Portis: We made amends, and together a streak of wins we gathered.
Agent: Compensation was gained from Niko. I promised, and delivered, the spirited Boisen, Hutchison, in return. We are on even ground!
Pax: I will not hear another word of this! I leave. Gar, on your head shall the fate of Portis, nay Chicago, rest.
Exit Pax. Portis and Gar seem quite distressed.
Agent (aside): This has followed exactly the builders formula. Here stands Gar, alone and afraid for his station. Neck extended across such a lovely butchers block.
Gar: Kind masters, I know not how too make the world happy. I fear a deal with Portis would ruin the flexibility we’ve created in our coffers. We cannot bend under strong demands for fear of breaking.
Portis (angry): I cannot sit and endure the very embodiment of disrespect! I will have satisfaction!
Portis moves to leave, Agent catches his arm
Agent: A minute, kind Gar, to set my client at ease. (To Portis) Calm thyself. Think of each brick in our foundation.
Portis pulls free of Agent, sneering at Gar as he passes. Gar cringes away. Exit Portis.
Gar (muttering): … And then there were two…
Agent: Forgive young Portis. Ever the competitor. Now Gar, let me help you save this franchise, Chicago, your soul, and in so doing, please the very world itself. I have a plan…