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At the Academy Awards, Moneyball was described more than once as a baseball movie. This drives me crazy. First, and most obviously, virtually all the action in the movie happens behind the scenes, so we see almost no gameplay whatsoever. But beyond that, most baseball movies are deeply romantic about the game; in fact, it's not just a game. Hell, in Bull Durham, it's a religion. Baseball movies are built around the idea that there is something exceptional and magical and unquantifiable about baseball.

Moneyball is a blunt repudiation of that idea. The whole point is that people's love of narratives and image, the whole mythology of baseball as America's pastime, has blinded them to the realities of how the game actually works and how it can be won. Moneyball is about boiling down all the would-be magic into cold, hard statistics. The fact that the team using those statistics is an underdog makes the coldness more palatable, but there's still something oddly unromantic in the fabric of the film, something that makes it an obvious outlier from the arena of baseball movies. And that, of course, is a big reason why I like it.