Take me out to the All Star Game today. When one starts talking about embracing failure in sports, the very first one to come up is baseball. Baseball is all about embracing failure. Perhaps more than any other sport. Failing 6 out of 10 times makes you a hero.

And one of the best movies about baseball ever, Moneyball, turns out to be a rich tableau of embracing failure themes…

  • Acceptance – “There’s the rich teams. Then there are the poor teams. There there’s fifty feet of crap. Then there’s us.”
  • Scepticism – “Nope. What’s the problem?” – Beane inject hyper-rationality into a sport rife with superstition and mythology.
  • Innovation – “Billy has tried to reinvent a system that has been working for years.” (except for the poor teams).
  • Diversity – “People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. Age, appearance, personality. Bill James and mathematics cut straight through that. Billy, of the 20,000 notable players for us to consider, I believe that there is a championship team of twenty-five people that we can afford, because everyone else in baseball undervalues them like an Island of Misfit Toys.”
  • Scientific Method – “He gets on base a lot. Do I care if it’s a walk or a hit?”
  • Failure – “You’re in last place dad.”
  • Pioneering – “For forty-one million, you built a playoff team. You lost Damon, Giambi, Isringhausen, Pena and you won more games without them than you did with them. You won the exact same number of games that the Yankees won, but the Yankees spent one point four million per win and you paid two hundred and sixty thousand. I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They go bat shit crazy.”

With Brad Pitt’s into-the-bleachers portrayal of protagonist General Manager Billy Beane (and a new hero for the Leader/Manager rostrum), the film is also packed with a number of vignettes on leadership and management…

  • Playing in the zone“I pay you to get on first, not get thrown out at second.” The Leader prepares the team beyond their limits; the Manager focuses the execution within their limits.
  • Rain dancing – “There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening. And this leads people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams.”

Home run!

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