The older I get the less I watch sports. Turns out that there’s so much more I’d rather be doing. I dislike Hockey anyway, so really never watch it. There are certain players on the Celtics that I admire, but I’ve had no interest in really turning on the games this year. Football? I used to watch it some. But this year I don’t think I watched more than ten minutes of any one game all year. I just didn’t care. I didn’t even think I was going to watch the Superbowl. But there was a certain drama surrounding the game. They do well at that, so I did watch and it was, I admit, exciting.
I heard a few days ago that this Saturday is Truck Day. That’s the day that the equipment truck backs up to Fenway Park and they load ‘er up. That means its only 10 days later for ‘pitchers and catchers’. That’s the day those players are supposed to report for spring training. Spring Training. We immediately know what that means and can smell popcorn and peanuts in the air. Some spilled beer too, I’d have to say. This unfolding ritual that plays itself out every spring really is a harbinger of warmer times. Ther’re robins pulling worms out of the ground. The end of winter draws itself near. Oh, there are still cold days ahead, but we know with certainty what direction this all takes. The morning is lighter earlier, the days stay brighter longer. That’s why baseball is still my favorite sport. It’s the summer game, and summer is my season. I grew up in Miami and the summer was in my DNA. Yes, I know. That makes no sense. It’s corrupted science. But, hey.
When the book Moneyball came out people said I should read it. Sports books…I did a book report in 6th grade, I think: The Mickey Mantle Story. A few years later I did read Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. This was before Jim got all right-wing. But aside from those, I can’t remember any other sports books I’ve read. Just not my thing. Does one of my favorite books count?: Coover’s The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. Probably not. Now I do like sports moves – especially baseball ones. Field of Dreams, Bang the Drum Slowly, The Natural…
But I’ll find myself listening to a game at the beach, or watching games on tv during the summer when the season really gets going. It’s the pace I love most of all. Something that many people point to as its biggest drawback. Too slow, they’ll say. Not for me. I don’t care if the game never ends. The summer as well. So the DVD came out and the film had good buzz, so I decided to watch it. It’s a very good film. Surprisingly so. I wasn’t sure how the heck they could make a movie out of statistical analysis, but they managed it. Managed it quite well, actually.
As I approach retirement (21 days!!) I look back on my corporate existence and the phrase “thinking outside the box” comes to mind. This is a favorite mantra that receives much lip service and not much of an approval rating. Shaking things up is just not what makes the money wheel go ’round. You can see this in the movie of Moneyball. The disapproval of the good old boys, the disdain for what they perceive as the disrespect of the game. “Playing the game right” they call it. It’s the most traditional of games, lovingly cultivating its treasured history. But that’s not the part of the game I love. There’s a great scene in the film when Billy Beane is down after foregoing a lucrative offer from the Boston Red Sox. The statistics guy he brought in to work with him at Oakland wants him to see this video he’s found. It turns out to be of a large ball player. Portly would be polite here. He supposedly has a reputation of hating to run from first to second, and the video shows him getting a hit, and he decides to go for it – but the moment he rounds first, stumbles and falls. Scrambles back to first on his hands and knees. The first baseman is looking down at him and laughing, motioning for him to get up on his feet. The ball had cleared the fence by a good 60-feet. Baseball.
Brad Pitt is really terrific in this one as Beane. The role fits him like a (baseball)glove. He’s become one of our finest actors. Do you have to love baseball to see this film. I think not, because really, it’s about that very human trait of thinking new thoughts, figuring out how to do things in a new way. There’s a lesson in this for all of us.