Thursday, December 14, 2006

Moneyball is a text.

At Salon, Malcolm Gladwell talks about his favorite book of the year:
My favorite book of the year was Michael Lewis' "The Blind Side," his story about a young football player from the slums of Memphis, Tenn., who is adopted by a wealthy, white, evangelical family. Lewis has a made a habit of writing about sports recently -- first baseball in "Moneyball" and now American football in "The Blind Side." But as was the case with "Moneyball," sports is really only a subtext for a much more meaningful examination of discrimination and class and race. I wept at the end of "The Blind Side," which I have not done at the end of a work of nonfiction for a very long time.
I read Moneyball. I do not remember the parts where sports was "a subtext for a much more meaningful examination of discrimination and class and race." To my recollection, sports was the text -- if I could quote the movie Barcelona here, I would, but consider it quoted -- and there wasn't much in there about discrimination and class and race, even in the subtext. Unless you used a really, really powerful microscope to look down below the text. Did I not read the book very well?

I'm still looking for a way to work Tabitha Soren into this post.

Sports in Moneyball wasn't "really only" a subtext for those issues, but they did arise (well, not race, so much). Lewis focused on the oddball players whom Billy Beane acquired to improve his team, the castoffs and weirdos like Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford. Arguably the underclass of Major League baseball, discriminated against because they were injured or didn't "play the right way".

But that's only one facet of the book, and race wasn't really an issue in it.

For a book in which discrimination and class and race are more in the forefront, the book Gladwell wants is Jim Bouton's Ball Four.
"[A]s was the case with...really only" is verbiage that warns us the assertion isn't exactly true, or true in the specifics. Ditto for "subtext," which also signals speculation and the possibility that others might interpret the text differently. It leaves open the possibility also that you'd need to have come to the book with experiences and views that Gladwell has but you and many others don't, but that he could convert you to his reading if he elaborated. He's boldly hypothesizing that his opinion is worth something to you without elaboration, and that if it makes you itch for more, you'll read what he's published about Money Ball (didn't he wrote something related in the New Yorker?). Maybe he's boldly hypothesizing that you haven't read Money Ball, so that you will put down this Salon article with as much faith in his opinion as when you started.
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