The Son and I saw Moneyball last week and in between being shaken down for Milk Duds and the $6.75 soda (no to both, although it was amusing to watch him try to convince me he’d had no sugar all day), we enjoyed an entire movie about baseball, our common ground.
Sports conversations are the great equalizer. Mr. Halfstory, always a good sport socially, maintains any new couple acquaintance is manageable if the guy can chat about a sport. Any sport. Sailing. Archery. Cricket. Our family dynamic prefers a ball in play and potential injury, but at the end of the day, someone has had to have won…or lost. And I wonder why our collective heads are spinning with anxiety. Hmm.
My son’s friend claims I know more about baseball than his dad, which, in my opinion is the gold medal of compliments from a teenage boy. This could be true, although, truthfully, all my knowledge I gleaned from the three stooges, oops, I mean my brothers, and Mr. Halfstory. I never played. My swing was too short, I threw too many bats and the thick glasses made my depth perception unpredictable. It was safer to throw my hands in front of my face instead of trying to catch anything. I was also too busy reading tragic books and worrying why my phone wasn’t ringing.
Back to Moneyball. I really liked the movie, but I suspect you’d have to like baseball to appreciate it. The book, on the other hand, was awesome, even though it took me many moons to finish it. I really wanted to understand all it’s statistics; they are such an intrinsic part of modern baseball. The “new” afterword was curious, though; it smacks of rationalizing the book, which is unnecessary. I guess it caused a tidal wave of outrage from all corners of baseball, which I find funny, since Beane’s approach to America’s sport was to find a new way to play it, win it, and change the way it’s played, all on a pauper’s budget. But everyone in baseball has the same goal: win. So what’s the beef, gentlemen? Innovation is America’s sport. The reactions to the book, Billy Beane, even Michael Lewis, seem so juvenile. Then I remembered these are adults wearing team uniforms and playing a game, or they are older guys wearing suits, reminiscing about wearing team uniforms and slicing up the rules…much like the 6-year-old boys I see on the school playground. So then their reactions aren’t all that surprising.
My conclusion regarding Moneyball (the book): high schools – even middle schools – should be using it to teach math and statistics to kids. Some already use Mary Roach’s non-fiction work (Packing for Mars) – and good for them. One of the things I like about the story, and Beane’s approach to baseball (eccentric bully that he likely is) is that nerds and athletes share the same desired outcome, the same drive to analyze and conquer…all in one arena! The same arena! When does that ever happen? I could see these two disparate groups sitting in a classroom, discussing stats, helping each other out, then exploding into friendly fistfights or earring-pulling episodes (depending on the gender mix, of course), eventually becoming buddies or bffs. Simplified, I know, but a girl can dream. And they may even understand more of those absurd multiple choice questions on the SAT.