Sports Night is, in the final calculus, a not very good show that is the obvious prequel to West Wing (a show which itself is probably Not Very Good but I love it dearly, perhaps especially for its flaws.) I think you can excuse many of its faults — it was a “prestige show in a network landscape” before that was really a thing, and there is no sharper hallmark of such a descriptor than the gradual move away from the laugh track over the course of the first season. I think if you grade it as a sitcom it’s actually fairly easy to love, and if you grade it as a sort of beta test for West Wing it’s fairly easy to appreciate (though the number of monologues Sorkin directly airlifted from this to the latter is comical).
When I think of Sports Night, I think of the finale of the show, and the deus ex machina television executive yelling brashly and firmly:
Anybody who can't make money off Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.
What a very sweet and awful way to send off a show. You can litigate Sorkin to hell and back, but you can never fault him for earnestness.