Moneyball

No one has ever made a major motion picture, or even a minor one, about Norwich City. Were it to happen it would not have a script by Oscar-winning screen writer Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, West Wing). The putative film would not have stars of the stature of Brad Pitt, or the ability of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The cinematography would not be handled by Wally Pfister (Inception, Batman Begins). There is a movie, Moneyball, released last week, based on the Oakland A’s 2002 season and among the creative talent is the aforementioned luminaries.

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It is a Hollywood truism that baseball movies do not play well outside the US; probably for the obvious reason that the game is not a big deal outside the Americas and Japan. In the UK particularly it is unfairly seen as a derivative of a children’s game. Moneyball adds to the baseball appeal by adding the sure-fire winner subject of statistical analysis. It opened at number two in the US box office; I doubt it will make such an impact back in the UK.

Readers may have gathered that I have become fascinated with Baseball in general and the A’s in particular. I think, however, that my bias aside, this is a fine movie. It has a script that sparkles with the sharpness of Sorkin’s wit; tells a story of an underdog, and wraps the desires of childhood into the mix. It tells of how using new methods of analysis, Oakland found undervalued players, to replace those poached by the moneyed East Coast teams; teams with a payroll more than three times that of the A’s.

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The film is based on a book whose subtitle was The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.  I read the book a couple of years ago and loved it. I would say it was one of my favourite baseball books, but since the only others I have read are The Boys of Summer and Lost Season; I am not sure that is as strong a recommendation as I wish to imply. I had been looking forward to the film ever since and it did not disappoint.

Published in: on 28 September, 2011 at 19:43  Leave a Comment  

The Scarcity of Frozen Water

I had lunch in Nandos in Carlisle station last week, as I waited for my brother’s train. I ordered a glass of Lemonade with the meal. The woman poured the drink into the glass. She did not ask if I wanted ice, nor provided even a single unsolicited lump. It was a shock that I was surprised. After all even if ice is provided in a drink here in the UK, it is one or at most two pieces. Five years on the US have changed my expectations.
The situation is the same at my parents’ house. There is no ice maker in the freezer and they do not have an ice tray in use. Previously, this would not have bothered me, but I now I expect and want ice in my drinks.

Published in: on 16 September, 2011 at 8:32  Comments (1)  

A Brit in Britain

I am back in the UK for a ten day trip to visit my family. Getting here was an involved process of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; albeit without John Candy and constant problems. It started as I left home at 4am, driving to BART station at Martinez. It was a straightforward journey to San Francisco Airport, which took about ninety minutes. A quick trip on the tram to the United terminal. The trip through security was quick and without incident.

I was traveling light, with no checked luggage. However, at the gate, I was asked to check my bag as the flight was full, I was in the last boarding group, and there was no space remaining in the overhead bins. I was assured that the bag would be checked through to London. The initial leg to Chicago was on time, and I supported local business by using my iPad to watch a movie made by a local lad; Empire Strikes Back.

Arriving at Chicago, I found the gate for the next leg, which was close. I grabbed a small pizza, then waited for my flight. I had a window seat, so boarded first, or at least first of those who do not fall into any of the assorted early boarding categories. I ate supper, read, and slept. This flight arrived in Heathrow early. There was a long line at immigration, but as a result my bag was on the carousel when got there.

Next leg was Heathrow Express, a quick 15 minute trip to Paddington. There was a slight complication, I had purchased the ticket online the day before and not received the email ticket. Fortunately, I had printed the web page with confirmation number and that was accepted.

Then it was tube to Euston Square, a short walk to Euston and pick up of the return ticket from a machine. One return ticket resulted in seven pieces of card. There is something odd about the whole rail trip, as my return leg is first class in order to save money. The standard class one was more expensive.

At Carlisle, I was met by the woman from Hertz who drove me to collect my car. I drove back to the railway station and waited for my brother. He arrived on time and we went on the last hour of the trip. I arrived twenty six and a half hours after leaving home.

Published in: on 12 September, 2011 at 2:34  Leave a Comment  

Flu shots

I had a Doctor’s appointment earlier this week, as I wanted some sleeping pills to help offset the impact of jet-lag and help me sleep on a trans-Atlantic flight. I was asked by the nurse if I wanted a flu shot. I replied in the negative, as work will provide the shot. When I saw the doctor he noted that I had declined and asked for confirmation. I again declined.
After the appointment, I was waiting outside and heard the Doctor talk to a pharmaceutical sales rep. He said he had been left holding a lot of shots last year, so was jabbing anyone who came in this year. This was an unwelcome reminder of one of the drawbacks to the insurance based US medical system, even for those fortunate enough to be covered.

Published in: on 10 September, 2011 at 0:48  Comments (1)  

Oxymoron or just Morons?

I usually have NPR or the local sports station on when I drive, but on occasion I listen to music. There was a station on 103.7 called The Band. Recently, it rebranded as Oldies 103.7. Now they continue to announce themselves as “The New Oldies”, which seems a contradiction. Even worse is the fact that the playlist seems unchanged, a guaranteed Eagles song every hour with a high probability of an Elton John.

Published in: on 5 September, 2011 at 17:42  Leave a Comment  

Swing and Miss

If I had dreams of playing in the Majors or winning a Grand Prix, they would have died today. I went to a batting cage for the first time today, and I am not a natural at swinging the bat, or at least that part of swinging that requires you to hit the ball. To make matters worse, I was facing slow softballs, not 90mph fastballs.

After failing at batting, I went to the indoor karting track in Fairfield. It was thoroughly entertaining, but I came sixth out of eight racers.  On the plus side, I hit no one and avoided crashing into barriers.

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Published in: on 4 September, 2011 at 17:18  Leave a Comment  

Postscript to End of Summer

It was a warm sunny day in Oakland, with just enough breeze to keep the temperature comfortable. A colleague and I saw the A’s starting pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, pitch a complete shut-out game, as they beat the Mariner’s 3-0. My sequence of wins and losses is broken and I am 5-4 on the season.
I am now sat in the garden under a cloudless sky, typing this and wondering whether to open a bottle of wine or mix a cocktail.

Published in: on 3 September, 2011 at 16:19  Comments (1)  

End of the Summer

This is Labor Day Weekend, which marks the end of summer with a long weekend. I am doing that most American of summer activities; watching a baseball game. Not that I need much of an excuse as this will be my ninth visit to see the A’s play this year; the fourth time that I have seen them against the Mariners.

All season I have seen loses alternate with wins; if the pattern continues the A’s will slip to defeat. I am hoping that is not the case, as Oakland need every win they can get to avoid finishing fourth and last in the AL West

Published in: on 3 September, 2011 at 9:39  Leave a Comment