1 October 2011 | napierslogs
More than a game of numbers
It has long been said that professional sports are more a game of politics than an actual game. Major League Baseball is not just a game of money, but in "Moneyball" it's a game of numbers versus a game of people. It's callousness at its highest when general managers trade away people as if they're objects with little regard for them or their family. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland As, seems to take that even further, treating people as if they are only numbers, and yet there was something refreshing and humanistic about the whole thing.
It's 2001 and Oakland has just lost to the New York Yankees in the playoffs, not surprising, seeing as their payroll was 76 Million dollars less. The humour of "Moneyball" starts in the off-season when the team can't afford to keep their top players and Beane and his experienced scouts start tossing around some free agent ideas. One guy is no good because he frequents strip clubs too often, another guy is no good because his girlfriend is ugly, and on down the list they go. But then Beane meets Yale-educated, economics-, mathematics-, and computer-whiz, baseball fan, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). He has no experience and he doesn't know these players. He doesn't know if they stand funny or if they swing ugly. He only knows their stats and their salary.
A lot of people took offense to Beane's approach of degrading players down to the sum total of their on-base percentage and runs-in potential. But I liked it. Since the game of baseball isn't changing any time soon and players will always just be elements that can help win games and make more money, why not view them as numbers rather than as people with ugly girlfriends? Like Peter Brand, I like numbers.
It's a movie about doing more with less, so I think we're just supposed to ignore the irony that they needed an excessively high budget to make it. In fact, it cost Sony Pictures more money to make this movie than it cost the Oakland A's to field their entire team for a season. Oh well, only one lesson for Hollywood at a time, and I still liked the movie.
For a movie about people trying to change the game of baseball, it's only fitting that they are changing the sports genre. This isn't about the team and how many games they're going to win. As in all cases, they win some and they lose some. And we really only meet one player, the rest are just names thrown in the air. The movie is about Billy Beane, a real person, and a multi-dimensional character. At first he realizes that he is going to have to play the game with more than just money, and then after he makes it about numbers too, he finds a balanced statistical and personal concept.
"Moneyball" says that the game is about money, but the movie is about people. Writer Aaron Sorkin knows how to write people, and as evidenced by "The Social Network" (2010), he also knows how to turn computer-programming into riveting cinema. We find humour in the least-expected of places, we find heart in the least-expected of people, and 'Moneyball" gives us a completely enjoyable movie that becomes so much more than numbers.