The intelligent hype around “MoneyBall”

I had never heard about “MoneyBall” until I heard a story about it on NPR yesterday morning.

Then last night, I heard Terry Gross interview Brad Pitt about it. OK, they talked a lot about “Fight Club,” with Ms. Gross asking the star how many people come up to him and say, “The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.” Not that many, actually. But the bottom line message of his being there was, “See ‘MoneyBall.”

Then this morning, I hear a review, also on NPR, from Kenneth Turan. Again, the message is to see the movie.

Also this morning, the teaser across the top of The Wall Street Journal (you know, the space devoted to football, year-round, in The State), was all about “MoneyBall.” It referred you to a big story headlined, “Baseball After Moneyball,” and a review by Joe Morgenstern, which says this film “…renews your belief in the power of movies.”

Then, in my email this morning, I get a link to the Roger Ebert review:

In the 2002 season, the nation’s lowest-salaried Major League Baseball team put together a 20-game winning streak, setting a new American League record. The team began that same season with 11 losses in row. What happened between is the stuff of “Moneyball,” a smart, intense and moving film that isn’t so much about sports as about the war between intuition and statistics.

OK, I get the message: I want to see this movie. Not only because I like good baseball movies, but because I’m very interested, as readers here will know, in “the war between intuition and statistics.”

But I have to say, I’m also quite impressed by the hype. Not just the volume of it, but the quality.

Note this isn’t your usual slam-bam action movie kind of promotion, that washes over you like a tidal wave and either pulls you into the theater or makes you run, screaming, for higher ground. The kind with lots of stuff blowing up. The kind that would never concern itself with “the war between intuition and statistics.”

This is targeted. This is more subtle. And it grabs people who are into baseball as a Thinking Man’s Game. Grabs them every which way.

Nice job by whoever was handling the media relations on this. I mean, everything they did was rather obvious, but I don’t remember the last time I saw these particular venues flooded this way for one movie. The buildup, from my perspective, was last-minute, but compete, and effective.

I may even shell out money to go see it in the theater. Which for me would be remarkable.

7 thoughts on “The intelligent hype around “MoneyBall”

  1. Judy Cooper

    Usually I find that a movie that receives this much publicity is inferior and the backers are just trying to get some of their money back. This time, it seems different,however. Thing is tho, I would have gone anyhow because I think Brad Pitt is a fine actor who generally chooses good movies.

  2. Brad

    You’ll note, if you follow the links, that the WSJ story starts with a quote from “Bull Durham,” while the intro to the NPR review quotes from “Major League.” The latter appeals to me more. Of all the much-lauded baseball movies out there, “Bull Durham” was my least favorite.

  3. bud

    Why does there have to be a “war” between intuition and statistics? Seems like the two can co-exist, much like the Isrealis and Palestinians. Maybe not such a good example.

    Baseball movies can be fun. I really enjoyed Field of Dreams and Bull Durham. Maybe I’ll check it out when it comes to video.

  4. Phillip

    “Who knew the Coens could make a movie that bad?” They can’t. I don’t think they have made a really bad film. Burn After Reading isn’t their greatest film, but my wife and I laughed pretty darn hard at the theatre. Might be my favorite Brad Pitt performance ever…not that I’ve seen all of them.

    I do hope to see Moneyball. I was a Bill James Baseball Abstract freak in the 1980’s and was pleased to see aspects of sabermetrics adopted by some general managers finally. Must be some good moviemaking (and scriptwriting) to take a story like this and turn it into a compelling tale for the screen. When I heard about the project I was skeptical, but it is indeed getting good reviews.

  5. Doug Ross

    On the intuition part, Brad Pitt revealed that they left a line out of the movie where one of the veteran baseball scouts gave a bad rating on a prospect. He reportedly said, “He’s got an ugly girlfriend which means his eyesight is bad.”

    And, yes, as a 26 year member of a fantasy baseball league, I know what OPS, RCAA, VORP, UZR, BABIP, and WAR are. Batting average is one of the worst way’s to judge a hitter.

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