As a numbers guy, to me the beauty of Moneyball doesn’t reside solely in its statistical and analysis cradle that makes it compelling to watch (and would put others to sleep), but rather the handicapped ideology it shows to the viewers before completely lopping its head off. Imagine doing the same job function for decades and coming to a hard realization that everything you know about it, is wrong. Completely and flat out wrong. How do you justify continuing in the same course?
Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane dares to answer that question as the Oakland Athletics General Manager at odds with his owner, his manager, his scouts, and the rest of the league as his team is being parted out for its best hands; grabbed up by organizations with bottomless pockets. Falling into lockstep with Beane is Jonah Hill’s Peter Brand, who feels that there are incredibly undervalued players within anyone’s budget to be snapped up but go unnoticed due to baseball’s long standing scouting traditions based almost solely on good looks and home run averages.
Watching Beane put together a solid team based on the numbers seems like poetic justice. As a young man, Beane forsook a full-scholarship to Standford to sign with the New York Mets by having his head filled with the undulating praise of older and wiser gentlemen who described him as the game’s “perfect five-tool player.” But after a disastrous career in the majors, Beane segues into a job as a scout. Several years later, as his team put together by sabermetrics accomplishes one of its colossal goals of 20-straight wins in the American League, a mix of satisfaction and disbelief engulfs Beane as he watches from an empty clubhouse weight room.
Here, in essence, is the power of this film. No one cares that the Oakland A’s are the superhero underdog team at the center of a two-hour attention span. What really matters, is giving meaning to something that matters to you. This is a story about a man in love with baseball. Who endures getting abused by the sweet nothings of higher ups as a youth and his own lack of developing talent as an adult; yet refuses to tell the girl goodnight because he loves her more than anything in the world.
The movie, tempered with its sole function of producing a team, that well, needs to produce, is its heart. Pitt’s Beane shines as an unflappable and adamant believer in his work, even when he doubts it. His relationship with his daughter, despite being divorced from her mother, is as strong as ever and provides him with the extra encouragement he needs to wake up everyday. There’s even a rather touching sentiment towards the end of the film where Brand explains to Beane that the importance of what you do accomplish infinitely outweighs what you don’t.
As you would expect, the film takes liberties with real facts, such as leaving out that Beane had continued the sabermetric work with the A’s by former General Manager Sandy Alderson. But that’s neither here nor there. Real life isn’t as nearly as entertaining as the movies, which is specifically why we go. In the end, one must realize that the screenwriters took what is essentially a math book, narrated by a habitual loser of baseball games and turned it into a spectacular biopic of a man who defied the uncontested rules and accepted “logic” of what makes a good ballplayer great.
Sports fans take a lot of flak for being portrayed as mindless slack-jawed morons who don’t understand anything other than a win and a loss, seeking constant justification for their obsession. This film destroys that notion. Because a true sports fan already knows you don’t have justify or explain yourself to people that don’t understand. And neither does this movie.
Moneyball. Directed by Bennett Miller. With Brad Pitt (Billy Beane), Jonah Hill (Peter Brand), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Art Howe), Chris Pratt (Scott Hatteberg), Robin Wright (Sharon), Kerris Dorsey (Casey Beane) and Stephen Bishop (David Justice). Released September 23, 2011 by Columbia Pictures.