“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” said Billy Beane, the current general manager of the Oakland Athletics, and the main character of the Oscar-nominated film, Moneyball. On March 6, Moneyball was screened in the Appleton Auditorium at Springfield College – a place where the romance of sports is worn passionately on thousands of sleeves every day.
The screening of the curious and moving story of Beane and his 2002 “island of misfit toys” Oakland A’s came to campus as a headlining event of the William Simpson Fine Arts Series.
Dr. Carol Mitchell, professor of English and Film Studies at SC, chose Moneyball to be screened at the event. Mitchell is teaching a Film Genre: Athlete in Film course this spring, and she says Moneyball is the ideal film to supplement her class. The dramatic themes of the underdog and going against the grain bleed through brilliantly in Moneyball. It is an Academy Award-quality film with a message that has sharp resonance within the Springfield College community.
The film event appropriately began with an introduction by Marty Dobrow, SC associate professor of communications and sports journalism, who is the author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Six Minor Leaguers in Search of the Baseball Dream. Dobrow, a lifelong baseball romantic himself, took to the podium in Fuller Arts Center to address an audience of students and faculty, sports and non-sports fans alike. At a school where athletes, coaches and prospective sports managers live out their passion for athletics on a daily basis, Dobrow’s introduction made the message of Moneyball even more tangible.
Dobrow opened his introduction by describing a baseball being cracked down the foul line and kicking up white dust as it spins itself towards the bleachers and away from the field of play. The audience in Fuller emphatically responded by judging the ball, “Fair!” The idea of the game of baseball being unfair is what Dobrow says is the essence of Moneyball’s conflict. Ballpark business is something that Dobrow says goes against an American fundamental, the idea of a “level playing field.”
Moneyball is a film that brings the inequality of Major League Baseball to the surface.
“It isn’t always liberty and justice for all,” said Dobrow. “Not all 30 teams are created equally.” When small market teams such as the Athletics are matched up against the wallets of teams like the New York Yankees, there is undoubtedly an unfair advantage. But as Moneyball shows its audience, ingenuity and drive always have the opportunity to overcome disadvantage.
“Moneyball is truly a fascinating look into the psychology of why people and teams succeed,” said Dobrow.
Moneyball is based on the best-selling 2003 book titled Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. The story chronicles the rebuilding of the 2002 Oakland Athletics. Played by Brad Pitt, the charismatic and hard-nosed general manager Billy Beane turns the baseball world upside-down by adopting a new managing min-dset to his ball club. With the support of Yale graduate Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), Beane reinvents the way teams and players are evaluated.
The pair of mavericks find themselves committing to the uncharted waters of statistical analysis (Sabermetrics), amongst a seemingly fixed institution of doubters and critics. Assembling a squad of undervalued and budget-friendly ballplayers, Beane and Brand turn their backs against the status quo, and in the process, they discover the boundaries of commitment and trust within themselves and each other.
A fresh look into the world of sports, Moneyball takes the focus off the field and reveals how underdogs get their opportunities in the first place. After a seemingly discouraging start to their experimental season, the unconventional A’s shook the baseball world by setting a new American League record of 20-straight wins. Beane’s bargain bunch silenced more than a few doubters, but more importantly, they were living proof that the unfairness of the game was a challenge, not a sentence.
The Moneyball film event on Tuesday gave its audience insight into professional sports. Springfield College itself seems to revolve around an axis of athletics and a deep love for the game. Coming to terms with the harsh reality of unfairness in sports is enough to make anyone hang up the mitt, but what seems like unfairness to most can pose as an extraordinary opportunity for greatness to a few. Moneyball is an example of how baseball will always remain the unscripted drama that will always fill ballparks and touch hearts.
“Baseball remains a very unpredictable game,” said Dobrow. “And that is part of its romance.”
Sean Seifert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org