Friday, September 23, 2011

Moneyball: Not Spiritual

"Moneyball," a drama film starring Brad Pitt as the Oakland A's General Manager, Billy Beane premieres in theaters on Friday, September 23. The film, based on Michael Lewis’ book by the same name, features the story of Billy Beane's success in using data analytics to draft players and create a winning team, specifically during the onset of the 2002 season.

The opening scene features Beane sitting solo inside an unlit Oakland Coliseum. He looks upon the now empty field, where ghosts may roam, dreaming about winning “the last game of the season” as a cheers from World Series game are broadcast in the background. The lighting, his pensive gaze, the palpable desire in his stance, would suggest you are about to embark on a story—a true one—that is very spiritual. It’s not.

These days I watch every sports story through a spiritual lens. Although "Moneyball" presented themes that resonate with spirituality such tenacity, commitment to a dream, vision and creativity—I left the world premiere thinking, What happened? Why did it fall flat?

Perhaps it is spiritually vapid because the story is one of economics; it is a tale of one man’s plight to create a competitive baseball team at a fraction of the cost of the large market teams. Perhaps I am asking too much…and yet, I don’t think so.Billy Beane is a complex character. He played in Major League Baseball for five years but as the GM he is "all business;" he does not watch the game. He tells his assistant to text him with the ball scores. Rather than sitting in the not so cheap seats, Beane works out in the gym underneath the Coliseum. The dark lighting, the dated, inadequate equipment leave you questioning why he chooses the world he has created.

You might ask Does the protagonist find redemption? What could be more spiritual than that? Yes and no. Beane claims that he “hates losing more than he likes winning.” The movie ends as it begins. Perhaps his spiritual journey is incomplete. The quest continues…I suppose it does for all of us.

The evening however was not spiritually devoid. I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere at Oakland’s Paramount theater as a benefit for the Oakland A’s community fund. It was obvious that everyone in attendance had a deep familiarity and affection for the Athletics. The packed house was filled with the actors—yes even Brad Pitt, but also former and current A’s players and their loyal fans. The fans, like those who fill the seats during the 20-game win streak were electric. Their passion for this team was revealed as the movie relived every great game, good hit, and big win. This crowd knew the losses but they also knew the sweet taste of victory. I think it was enough for all of least on this night.

Go see Moneyball and put on your spiritual lenses. I welcome your thoughts!

Photo Credits
Moneyball Poster
Moneyball Poster II
Paramount Theater--my iPhone!

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