From the occasional reviews series - Michael Lewis's Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
something about American sportswriting that I just love. Or perhaps
there's simply enough distance that what sounds banal and often
ridiculous when it's written here in New Zealand (witness the outpouring
of adjective, cliche and nation-building around the Rugby World Cup)
sounds mythical and meaningful when it comes from offshore. Perhaps I'm
just buying in to the romanticism that this book seeks to unravel. But I
don't care - I love it, I loved this book, and you should read it.
As there's a movie just about to come out starring Brad Pitt based
on 'Moneyball', I probably don't need to go deep into exposition. To
keep it as short as possible: Lewis spent a year bedded into the Oakland
Athletics, studying how general manager (and ex pro player) Billy Beane
and a small number of his colleagues sought to ignore the folk wisdom
that has traditionally governed how a baseball team is put together and
instead assembled an assortment of unlikely, unfavoured and unheroic
players on the basis of a bunch of carefully crunched statistics, and
came out on top.
I might be one of the few people who expected more data and less
sport from 'Moneyball'. Even though I know barely anything about
baseball (a couple of seasons of softball as a kid is the sum total of
my knowledge) I was able to skate past the unintelligible passages, and
soak in the sections that made sense.
And soak in them you certainly can. Lewis has a hardbitten, salty,
yet occasionally love-struck way of writing that makes this book the
unexpected delight it is (my single favourite sentence: 'When it suited
his purposes Billy Beane could throw the best pity party this side of
the Last Supper.' The chapters dedicated to analysing single players - a
batter with the best record of laying off the first pitch in the
league, a pitcher with an amazing way of keeping runs down, but who
looks all wrong - are beautiful character studies. And the overall story
of Billy Beane, the guy who seemed to have it all going for him but
couldn't make it, and who came back to rewrite the way teams were put
together so guys like him were no longer the guys you wanted, is told
with clear-eyed affection. Even if you have no interest in baseball,
this is a remarkable book about the tenacity required to do something
I share my reviews on Goodreads (fair warning, I'm prepping to review a book about New Zealand YA writing, so there's going to be a lot in that vein coming up, starting with Elizabeth Knox's Dreamhunter and Dreamquake.