MONEYBALL: Cultural Survival and Bioethics

This is a masculine story punctuated with love of a child, work, and sports. Adapted from the 2003 book by Michael Louis, Steven  Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin wrote a script which highlights Ben Miller's delicate directorial touch.  Talk about your mixed genres, this is sports movie that is also a chick flick date movie and it's a drama. Brad Pitt's performance in Moneyball is one of reflected inner conflict, much like the struggle of the city of Oakland where the story is set.

A bioethicist, notoriously without interest in professional sports, this story ”had me" at the point where less than stellar  players were intentionally recruited for the Oakland Athletics.   Some of us recall being in 5th grade; the last picked.  Who knew that a slow runner, lousy catcher and horrid pitcher could bat the daylights out of a ball?  The bioethical message of this film is that equality is not sameness. Diverse players can be treated as equally valuable despite their different skills. This is not really a story adverse to commodification of professional sport players.  Instead, it underscores how to interpret the value of a player within the game.

Moneyball reverses two classic paradigms; champions are champions and divorced people with children are doomed to battle.  Scientific principles, manifest in the computer nerd statistician, (Jonah Hill) alter the view of champion players.  Here, intelligent use of technology triumphs over stardom.  The statistician is the device of equality.  He shifts the team general manager's (Brad Pitt's) world view. The two inept losers, using their divergent realities become confident and capable, foreshadowing the same conversion for the team itself.   Scouts and other senior team staff are brilliantly portrayed as recalcitrant established old guard needing to be overthrown, as in any cultural or political evolution. They are all dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. 

In bioethics, culture can be either the greatest friend of beneficence (what we ought to do with knowledge) or its enemy supporting static influences.  For the purposes of this discussion culture is: how a group defines itself. Cultural evolution is imperative to cultural survival. Cultures, which do not change, die. Moneyball first defines baseball culture, sets up a device for change and demonstrates the evolution of the culture.

There are only two women in the film and one of them is a ten year old girl (Kerris Dorsey).  The general manager's ex-wife (Robin Wright) lives in a Los Angeles impeccably precious designed environment, a stark contrast to the grit of the baseball locker room.  She and her new husband are set up by their ice palace as dis-empathetic; just this side of sociopathy.  The "oh so wise for her years" daughter of the estranged parents is the device which shifts away from the culture of hostility between these adults.  Indifference to change, frequent in divorce, is demonstrated as untenable when caring for the love of one's life. The parent child relationship parallels the game of baseball in the shift to a more modern cooperation.  

The worldwide depressed economy has nearly murdered the independent film genre.  Moneyball’s skillful crafting endures the poverty and resuscitates the art form with a jolt.

Moneyball (35 mm) Ben Miller. 2011.  USA. Columbia Pictures. 133 min.

Lewis, Michael. Moneyball:The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. W.W. Norton and Company. 2003.

For more ethics of professional sport also read:

Littman, John.  Crashing Augusta: Real life tales of sports, men and murder. Snowball Narrative. Mill Valley. 2010.