Published on: September 30, 2011
It won’t be surprising to anyone who has read our book, The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies
, or who has paid attention to the off beat subjects that pop up with regularity on MNB, that the opening of the movie Moneyball
would be a big deal. It’s got baseball, business and the movies - all wrapped up in one beautiful 126 minute package. Doesn’t get much better than this.
This is one of those great circumstances in which the movie doesn’t disappoint, and lives up to expectations. Based on the best-selling book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball
is the story of Billy Beane, general manager of the small-market, low-budget Oakland Athletics, who found it increasingly difficult to compete with better financed teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, especially as those teams would “gut the A’s like a fish” and lure all its good and even decent players away with high salaries.Moneyball
- the book and the movie - examines what happened when Beane worked with an unorthodox brain trust (as opposed to the seasoned scouts with centuries worth of experience and opinions) to develop an unorthodox approach to choosing players - focusing on slugging and on base percentages instead of more traditional measurements such as hits and home runs, a way of building a team of largely undervalued players that one character describes as being like “the island of misfit toys.”
Brad Pitt plays Beane; he grabs the screen just like a movie star, but he’s evolved into a man with a lived-in face and vulnerable eyes - he’s a character actor in the making. And Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand, a fictionalized amalgam of several real-life characters; he’s a Harvard graduate with a degree in economics, but one who loves baseball and sees numbers and statistics where other people see just the romantic aspect of the sport. Hill is great in the role - he’s awkward and hesitant, but with more spine than you expect, as he helps Beane see baseball through a different set of eyes. And the actors who play the baseball players achieve something noteworthy - they actually seem to move, talk and act like baseball players.
Ultimately, that’s the most important lesson of Moneyball
- the importance of asking the unpopular or unexpected question, of challenging conventional wisdom, of not accepting the status quo just because its been around a long time. It is a distillation of the old Mark Twain line: “Sacred cows make the best hamburger.”
Of course, in life there aren’t always happy endings, and things don’t always get tied up with a nice bow. Even the most pertinent lessons don’t have the best results. And that also is the lesson of Moneyball
is a very good movie - well acted, written with style by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (who writes better dialogue than anyone else in the movies), and given great pace by director Bennett Miller (Capote
). It is entertaining and
illuminating ... and full of wonderful business lessons. Enjoy.
Last week, I forgot to mention a restaurant that I visited in Seattle - it was new to me, but one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever been to. Tavolata has some of the best pasta I’ve ever tasted; mine was served with spicy Italian sausage, marjoram, and tomato, and was absolutely magical.
Finished reading “The Paris Wife,” a novel by Paula McLain that purports to be a memoir by Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. I guess it is a good thing that it is hard to tell what is invented and what is based on actual research, and I have to admit that I was intrigued by the book. I’m not sure if that’s because it is really well written, or because I’m fascinated by the period, my curiosity whetted by this summer’s Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris
. If you are intrigued by that era as well, you may find “The Paris Wife” a solid read. If not, then probably not so much.
I also tasted something else the other day that was far afield from my usual indulgences - Bushmills Millennium Single Malt Irish Whiskey, which was distilled in 1975 and, 35 years later, was about as smooth a whiskey as I’ve ever tasted. My friend Tony Stanton has been saving a bit of it, and he was kind enough to share it with me, a whiskey neophyte. But let me tell you ... it was unbelievable.
Something else I tried and loved - the Mission Brewery Shipwrecked Double IPA, from San Diego, which was thick and perfect with a spicy cajun shrimp dish I made the other night. I hope they get a national distributor sometime soon.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.