SOMETIME AROUND 2011, if not sooner, we will be blessed with the movie "Moneyball," based on the fine book Michael Lewis authored about the way Billy Beane runs the A's.
One question: Why?
Whenever I seek an answer, the same two words come bouncing back: Brad Pitt. As if Mr. Angelina Jolie, cast to portray Beane, is such a marvelous actor that we'd pay to see him star in a sports movie that, if true to the facts, will lack the essential elements of a quality sports movie.
Elements such as, uh, the dramatic winning or losing of a championship. "Miracle," the wonderful movie about the 1980 U. S. Olympics hockey team, would not have been made if that team had won the bronze.
Such as, um, the tragic death or miraculous recovery of a major character. "Brian's Song" could not have been conceived had Brian Piccolo not been struck down in the middle of his NFL career.
Such as, well, dialogue so funny or poignant or memorable it will be repeated in bars, living rooms and clubhouses for the next 20 years. There are reasons we don't forget lines from "Caddyshack" and "Bull Durham."
"Moneyball" whiffs on all three counts. The book is about Beane's new business model, mothered out of the perceived economic need to make the baseball operation more efficient, and how it challenges conventional baseball wisdom. Which is a noble concept — except the general manager's reinvention of the wheel never really got rolling.
Recent A's seasons have ended not with World Series pomp or postseason pyrotechnics but with a dull thud. That surely was the case in 2002, when Lewis hitched his considerable journalistic chops to the product being sold by the A's. Oakland that season reached the American League Division Series and was eliminated in five games.
Which was no different than the two years before (2000, 2001) or the year after (2003). In each case, theirs was a decidedly anticlimactic conclusion.
The '02 defeat, however, devastated Beane. His team finished 103-59, tying the Yankees for best record in the AL, only to get bounced by, of all teams, the scrappy and unheralded Twins. Minnesota not only clung to dark-age concepts but had an even lower payroll.
The two previous seasons the A's fell to the big-money Yankees. In 2003 it was the rich Red Sox. Losing to clubs with vastly deeper resources made losing more palatable.
Losing to the Twins, a candidate for contraction for crying out loud, sucked the spin right out of Beane. I've never seen his spirits lower than after the decisive Game 5 loss at the Coliseum. More than an hour later, with a few zombies staggering about the clubhouse, he sat in a corner, shoulders slumped, eyes vacant, voice drained of conviction, looking as if he wanted to cry. Or surrender.
Instead, Billy questioned whether his team would ever experience the satisfaction of winning a playoff series. It was the first time I've heard him second-guess himself, his baseball principles and philosophies.
Beane now concedes the winning seasons after the turn of the millennium were attributed to the likes of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada.
Which implies the "Moneyball" theory is overrated, effectively tossing it on the abundant heap of failed scientific experiments. This is quite the flaw, eh?
The goal of a good sports movie is to touch us, to use tragedy or inspiration or sheer escapism to reach our emotions and leave us cheering or laughing or weeping. A truly exceptional one can hit the trifecta.
Can coaxing 100 minutes of wistful and wounded out of Pitt possibly compensate for the lack of innate suspense, natural drama or that moment that makes the audience rise to its feet? Can bitter disappointment sell?
Still, all signs point to ``Moneyball'' going forward. Columbia Pictures is on board, as are acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh, former A's manager Art Howe and former players David Justice and Scott Hatteberg.
What we have here is an urgent need for dramatic license, also known as lying and cheating.
Raise Minnesota's payroll from $54 million to $154 million. Lower Oakland's from $65 million to $65. Give Howe a full head of hair. Depict Beane's nerdy former assistant, Paul DePodesta, as a serial killer.
Now, who wouldn't want to see that?
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org