Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Moneyball dramatizes the Oakland Athletics unlikely rise to success during the 2002 Major League Baseball season.  Although that team did have tremendous success that season, it was the way the team was built that would forever change baseball history.

It’s funny, at one point I considered my baseball fan-hood to be shared equally, between my inherited allegiance, that being the New York Yankees, and this team that had an elephant with a giant A on it’s side for a logo.  ESPN is partially to blame for my brief deviation from the familial tribe.  It was the first season ESPN started showing nightly baseball.  I recall watching game upon game, if remembered correctly that whole first week had double-header after double- header.  One of the teams that got a lot of attention was the Oakland Athletics.  I’m not sure whether it was that particular squad that prompted the early broadcasts or if the lower selection of late night gaming options spurred their games being televised but back then I didn’t care, I was loving every minute of it. 

I remained a pretty loyal fan of the green and gold, that is, until they started unloading their stars, whether by trade or through free agency. My favorite players back then where Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley and although not a player, Tony LaRussa was the man in my eyes.  So when the manager left Oakland for St. Louis, my fan-card switched allegiances as well.

To this day, along with my love of all things Yankees, I’ve remained a Cardinal fan as well.  I’ve since adopted a few other teams to pull for as well, namely the Mets and Tigers, but a weird thing took place for me during the process.  After Yankee domination was elating the state and displaced bomber fans across the globe, with their consistent adherence to fielding an almost unbeatable squad, although never wavering away, as I’ve heard some had- those tired of the “Buying” championships notion, I also started watching more games in general.  I would plop myself on the couch and view whatever games I had to choose from, whether it meant catching a Cards game on TBS whenever they played Atlanta, Indian games were played locally back then as were the Yankees of course.  While ESPN continued their tradition of broadcasting MLB games, I also had the opportunity, as did anyone really, to watch more teams than I otherwise would have been able to.  So, my baseball history, as a fan, goes from inheriting a team to follow, to finding other sources to cheer, to watching whatever games I could set my eyes upon.

So with my personal backstory aside, I remember vividly The Streak, and although I didn’t consider myself a current fan, I was pulling for the underdog the entire way.

The system Billy Beane used changed the course of Baseball history.  It proved that the small markets, underfunded clubs, could in fact play with the big boys with astronomical budgets galore.  This idea transcends to other sports as well, where as it gives hope to those following a franchise in the various Oaklands out there.  Living my life in Buffalo, NY I know all too well the ever-present small market ideology that becomes both the causer of anxiety, wondering how long this gig can last, as well as a badge of courage to wear upon your chest.   This latter idea offers the hope that, “when we finally become the best, we’ll have done it in spite of everything.  For all obstacles aside, we’ll be the best in the world.”  This idea, because of the ideas behind the theory Beane used, gives hope in this respect, can, and has, invigorated small towns with the belief that anything is possible.  And now, in this time of economic despair that seems to linger much longer than anyone of us would like, we’re seeing how these “Small” markets are now being the heaviest hit in their relation to the current economy. So, of course, people living in such cities are looking for a reprieve, something to hang their hat upon and get behind.  With the ideas developed by Bill James in his Sabermetric system and then championed by Billy Beane and Peter Brand, fans now know that anything is possible, and on any given night, they chance will be there for them to succeed.

As to the film itself, I felt the acting was up to the level you’d expect.  Brad Pitt did a pretty decent job as Beane, Jonah Hill was pretty great as Brand and Phillip Seymour Hoffman put an outstanding, albeit minor, performance in as A’s manager Art Howe.

The film is set up like a documentary.  It runs linear along a timeline and skips gaps of time by utilizing “chapters” or “headlines.”  Yet, although that documentarian/historian feel is there, you never really feel like you’re watching one at all.  Outside the chapter screens and the small amount of voiceover, Moneyball plays like a film, which, of course, it is.  It really plays tribute to the people and the events that took place, with, if any, a small amount of liberties taken, which, is pretty unusual with Non-Fiction based works. 

I’ve been told that the movie, while not as detailed, is pretty true to the story told in Michael Lewis’s 2003 bestseller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.  I have the book and am eager to jump in their now having seen the movie.  It’s weird that I’ve had the book for sometime now and am typically the kind of person that always reads the book before seeing the film, and in the cases where I see the movie first; rarely do I then head to the pages that inspired it.  It’s different in this case though, as seeing the movie, listening to the overview of what the Sabermetric system is, makes me want to dig deeper and gain an even better understanding.

That’s what this film does.  It offers a brief understanding of what took place back in 2002 and touches upon the ramifications of what Beane and Brand did.  For the casual baseball fan you’ll enjoy learning more about events that have shaped the game you watch today.  For the longtime fan you’ll be taken back to a glorious period where underdogs become favorites and media darlings.  If you’re thinking about seeing the movie, do it.  If you’re not at all interested, you’re probably not reading this review, but I think you’d enjoy Moneyball as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment