Image by pursuethepassion via FlickrLast Friday, thanks to a generous friend and his car, I was able to make my way off campus to see the long-anticipated movie, Moneyball. Ever since I first heard that the popular book was being made into a movie, I knew that I would see it as soon as it came out.
Going in, I did not know what to expect. I had seen a lot of the commercials, and I was relatively certain that I would thoroughly enjoy it. After all, I did pour through the book in less than one week. But at the same time, I was doubtful that it would be a movie I would recommend to others, as others rarely share with me the same enjoyment of the most nerdy concepts in all of sports.
To clarify though, Moneyball is not a movie about sabermetrics. A viewer does not need to understand intense baseball statistics, nor does that viewer need to buy into it at all. Instead, it is a movie that follows the plight of two characters as they attempt to overcome an unfair game and pioneer change in an institution defined by more than 100 years of tradition.
It is as much a biography of Billy Beane himself as it is a movie about the Athletics' season. And I have to say, this was the best, and more specifically, most intelligent sports movie I have ever seen.
The dialogue sparkled. In fact, the screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin, who was also responsible for The Social Network. And the characters were portrayed in a similar manner, with the same quick-moving, witty script that made The Social Network so great.
I found myself on the edge of my seat for just about the entire two hour movie. Brad Pitt was excellent as Billy Beane, as was Jonah Hill, who played Paul Depodesta. (Though Depodesta asked that his name be removed, so Hill's character is Peter Brandt.)
Done quite well was the dichotomy between the progressive thinkers (Beane and "Brandt") and the traditional thinkers (scouts, media, etc.). The interactions between them were both hilarious and so true based on my own frustrations trying to win unwinnable online arguments.
Above all, Moneyball made the baseball culture war understandable. To those that do not buy into statistical analysis, I would think that the movie would help them to understand the obsession with research over traditional methods. And for those who think that sabermetrics is the only method, and hold contempt for anyone who disagrees with that method, it does a great job of highlighting the fears of traditionalists.
So whether or not you are a baseball nerd, go see this movie. It is a fascinating portrayal of an extraordinary culture shift in America's pastime.
As Red Sox owner John Henry told Beane, this new philosophy threatens the livelihood of many in baseball, from coaches, to front office members, to scouts, to members of the media. Change is always scary, but progressive change such that we are currently seeing in Baseball is almost always for the better.