Friday, February 10, 2012

"Moneyball" Preaches

“Moneyball” is a drama about fighting to change a culture, hidden in the guise of a sports movie… make that a quasi sports movie, because there is very little here that fits the genre.

Baseball is not really a sport, but it is also more than a game. It is a culture, a metaphor, a bit of a religion of sorts. As an outsider, one who was not brought up in the culture and its language and symbols, it can be an enigma. One thing is clear though, it has its own internal logic that does not always reflect reality. In “Moneyball,” that institutional insanity is exposed in the conversations amongst the scouts as they assess their prospects for the coming season. They have all sorts of intangibles—divinations—for predicting who will do well and who won’t.

Billy Bean set out to change all of that, not because he is not a victim of what he calls the romantic view of baseball (he has a firm belief that if he watches a game he will jinx it) but because he wants to find a way to fix the monetary injustices the professional sport has created. He wants to win. It turns out the way for him to beat the system is to assess players based on tangible results that lead to wins, not how they look or if they fit a mold.

That is where this movie transcends its story and becomes applicable to almost every aspect of American culture. Every area of American culture has been programmed to think that appearances and money are the solution to every challenge, when in reality results are what should be measured. It is debatable whether the system proposed in this film and the book upon which it was based really works, but the change that it brought to baseball is an important one. Every endeavor in American culture could benefit from this perspective check.

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