Growing up, I obliterated our VHS copy of “Field of Dreams”. I knew I loved the movie but never paused to appreciate why. Looking back, I can only guess that the combination of baseball magic and youthful wonder set my sensations ablaze. But Moneyball touches a completely separate nerve and yet sparks the same sensation. My love for the game has waxed and waned over the years but has never extinguished. Of course, my story may sound reminiscent of millions of others – stories of people who played and romantically courted this sport.
As I reached young adulthood, baseball all but vanished along with my childhood innocence. Then I had my son and baseball resurfaced with the fury of obsessive compulsion. Nothing from my own conscientious intentions brought on this re-invigoration for the game. Years after his birth, I can speculate that a subconscious yearning awakened within me; that unique father-son time in the late afternoon playing catch, building the foundation of an enduring relationship despite a lifetime of disappointments and failures which would inevitably smudge out his idolization of me. Or maybe something else transfixed my mind.
Michael Lewis’ book, like so many great hero stories, depicts a man bold enough to inject new life into a cultural institution captivated by an ancient nonsensical status quo. Never in any baseball book or film have I felt as familiar with players, characterizations derived by Lewis from behaviors on the diamond! Perhaps the character of a man bares itself most transparent on the diamond. Yet never have I considered the game’s drama off the field. I mean, I know how it works. But I never considered how the same mystique, the same flux of life flowed from the front office.
After watching the film, then reading the book, I found myself bent on one powerful idea. One office led by one man, offended in his own life by a system that misjudged his quality by compartmentalizing it in flawed terms, maniacally scrounged for scientific manipulations to control desired results.
Baseball is life.
Not because it consumes our every waking hour, but because no other sport symbolizes the marathon, the ups and downs, the endurance, the coping, the willingness to adapt, the need for introspection, the grind, the quality of character necessary to reach the goal of life. To win. To reach the goal we set for ourselves even when the odds tower over us. And despite Billy Beane’s efforts, and the efforts of his office, to control his team’s fate, and the monumental success they manufactured in the regular season, life still happens. The goal one seeks slips away – an effect autonomous from the cause he hoped would lead to it. Within the story lies this tragedy of failure, as if the baseball gods pat Billy Beane on the back while simultaneously gutting him. But within the dramatic representation of Beane, a sort of calm endures. Perhaps the goal may not have been a specific outcome, but rather to live, I mean play, the best way possible to whatever outcome may lie ahead.
All the same, a status quo should never go unchecked and the grind never abandoned. Otherwise such realizations may forever slouch on the horizon. A lesson well learned and hopefully one day embraced by my son. After all, my son brought new life into mine.
His own. And baseball.