“You can observe a lot just by watching” – Yogi Berra
Most sports fans out there that obsessively follow their teams and check the box scores daily are just frustrated athletes. And as Alvy Singer says, “Those that can’t do, teach. And those that can’t teach, teach gym.” But in Moneyball those that can’t do neither become Scouts and join the fold of the parasitic monied culture that surrounds professional sports. The movie opens with a prescient Yogism like quote from the great Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle, “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life”. But I’m sure that drunkard wasn’t referring to sabermetrics, algorithms, and paradigms to what goes on between the white lines of grown men in pajamas playing in the greatest show on dirt. A seemingly simple but yet complex game or in other words-baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.
Same can be said about Moneyball, replete with wall to wall dialogue (with the exception of the obligatory slow-mo ball playing montages), that involves us in behind the scenes dealings of baseball, being less a movie about sports and players personalities, but about the nerds and wannabes treating their idols as a commodity. Basically, it’s like that Facebook movie but with Brad Pitt. I must admit I have a love/hate thing for the guy, the older he gets or the more he looks like Robert Redford, and the better he gets at acting. In this chew spitting Oscar contending performance as Billy Beane (the General Manager of the fledgeling Oakland A’s) he is unable to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox due to the huge disparity in payroll and markets. So he resorts to a number crunching Jonah Hill, an overweight 24 year old Yale economics graduate, to help solve the problem and put the team on the plus side. In doing so Pitt flies in the face of convention – pitting these lifer Scouts, a bunch of old farts that spent too much time in the sun, against Google Boy and one firing away from working at Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Scouts draw upon their years of experience calculating the five tool player combined with baseball smarts and the intangibles within the variables, whereas Jonah calculates on base percentages, where a walk is as good as a hit – picking up seemingly washed up, devalued players in tandem instead of paying the price of one multi-million dollar player with a five cent head. With this meat market or the PC sabermetric approach one can argue it’s antecedents and origins of how geeky little boys chewing chalky gum, scanning their baseball card stats and playing strat-o-matic are to grow into the stock market devising derivatives and credit default swaps. Both soulless endeavors with the calculated illusion of winning. But at least being a General Manager of a team spreads joy to the kids in the stands. And as we all know, the children are our future – even if there won’t be any well paying jobs for them when they grow up. At least they’ll still have Fantasy Baseball! Which is almost as pathetic as rock ‘n’ roll camp.
The Yanks and Red Sox buy championships and that’s why we root for Pitt and Jonah, because underdogs are what all sports movies are about anyhow. So while the old guard Scouts are busy scratching their heads about who the fuck Fabio is and Pitt drives in circles soul searching, the Oakland A’s go on a remarkable record winning streak. Ironically breaking it not with a walk but a Roy Hobbs like fucking home run! So much for sabermetrics. As Billy Beane was quoted “this shit don’t work in the playoffs.”
I guess the saying, “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” just don’t cut it with Beane ball. However, without sounding corny, Moneyball is a winner and most likely will win awards. I just hope they don’t nominate that fucking jingle song that Pitt’s daughter (Kerris Dorsey) sings – or worse, her! Or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who thinks just because he has a buzz-cut he’s a believable baseball manager. But the real Art Howe was clueless too.
Moneyball may deny you the romance of baseball but like the game Pitt has the opportunity to redeem himself. But I’d rather forget all that noise and cash that big fat paycheck.