“People in both fields operate with beliefs and biases. To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data, you gain a clear advantage.”
Michael Lewis, Moneyball
The idea of money ball comes from a real experience with a baseball team. It was so successful that it changed the baseball game forever. It became a book. It became a movie. The concept was radical: it is more important to get on base than anything else; if you could get on base you had a better chance to score.
This idea was contrary to everything that owners, managers, coaches and scouts believed in because they thought that the ideal baseball player had have heart, leadership, heroics, charisma, locker-room chemistry and so on.
The sad thing is that while baseball figured out how to win, it is not very fun and fans are not filling the stands. The game needs a towering home run now and then. Whammy.
A brief article on CNN called Incredibles 2, Solo offer mixed message at the box office flirts with the idea of a moneyball type concept and discusses the lack of box office metrics and the wish of studios to up their odds.
I think that Hollywood has done it, whether they understand it or not. Everything used to pivot critically on if a studio got a blockbuster hit, a plate clearing home run. And, no doubt, blockbusters are still happening. But, we are seeing something else as well.
We are seeing movies that only need to get on base to win. We have seen a bunch of movies that puts a bunch of funny people together and lets them run with it. And I mean a bunch, a staggering amount. Melissa McCarthy and Kevin Hart and Jason Bateman and all of those improv guys are making a lot of movies. And, really, they are not very good. They are not bad either. They get on base.
What we thought was important to make a good movie; strong acting, a powerful script, good taste, class, style, whimsy, deft skill at editing or camera work; are really not that important after all. In fact, they are not needed for a blockbuster either.
Which leads me to wonder: how far as the idea of money ball seeped into our culture? I’m thinking about the influence in social media; instead of the home run of changing a persons mind, say from Blue to Red, it is enough to reinforce what people already believe by telling them what they want to know: while it is a lie.
I’ll wrap this up by telling you about the time I got a new Dean at my college. The first day of classes he addressed the student body and said that 80% of life is simply showing up. I wanted to crawl under my seat; I was touting excellence in learning, devotion to the craft, deep understanding, honoring history and finding inspiration.
Maybe that guy was right. Show up and get on base, that is all you have to do.
One thought on “Moneyballer”
To add, I think, to your argument, consider the way we select political candidates. Presidential candidates have to go through years of vetting, primaries, debates, and so on and for the most part – I can think of one exception – and have to be bland and flawless to make it higher and higher (not one misstatement, not one lapse. The “smoothie-fi-cation” of candidates and leaders in general allows little room for brilliant leadership by people like a Patton, who aren’t always politically correct. Of course, the benefit is that you are less likely to get someone seriously flawed, in return for someone who is “acceptable” or a “compromise”. Milquetoast comes to mind.
There is a great episode on West Wing about picking Supreme Court justices (Glenn close and Jimmy Smits I think are two of the contenders) I think everyone should watch. Brilliance over mediocrity is the message.
Nice post Kubla.
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