I’m perhaps 80% of the way through this book.
I hadn’t really been too driven to read it, until Jaworski, Cosell, and Plaut mentioned that their chapter on Bill Walsh more or less paralleled a chapter in Blindside. Whoa! An Xs and Os book is going to follow an explanatory chapter in a biography?
“Blindside” is a book about Michael Oher, a homeless child in Memphis whose cause is taken up by an affluent white family who end up more or less adopting him. That of course would just be a pretty tale in some church somewhere but for Michael’s totally off the charts physical abilities. He was a physically perfect left tackle, a position that is, short of quarterback, the hardest to fill in modern football, and one of the highest paid positions on the field. Good left tackles can be, as in Jake Long’s case, number 1 draft choices in the NFL. So this man-child, discovered by the Tuohy family, was, if taken care of properly, likely to become a wealthy man in his own right.
And Michael Lewis, being one of the best writers of our generation, does a terrific job with the story. It has since become a movie, one that my daughter was shown in high school recently.
Michael Lewis’s reputation in the sports and business world was cemented with this book.
“Moneyball” has always been a quicksilver miracle of a book, one so nuanced that much like the OODA loop that this man proposed,
it became something of a paradigm for business success. Moneyball’s main point was that certain traits that lead to winning baseball were undervalued, and that Billy Beane, a general manager of the Oakland Athletics, a team with a limited payroll, had become deft at mining sabermetrics experts for ways to find winning baseball talent that other teams didn’t know was talent. Moneyball, in other words, was a treatise in optimizing how to succeed. In it he did considerable homage to guys like Bill James, a brilliant man whose sharp tongue perhaps cost him at times. And for people like me, who grew up reading Bill James, wide eyed and implementing his formulas on our home computers, something finally of a vindication of trying to think and understand what we do.
The irony, of course, was in the backlash it generated, one that largely came from more traditional baseball teams. General managers such as Pat Gillick, who by their words could not have ever read Michael Lewis’s book, ranted long and hard about how this book was written by Billy Beane and was all about on base percentage. Mostly they were expressing their rage at being made to look foolish.
In the paperback edition, in the afterward, the one section of Michael Lewis’s book you absolutely must read, Michael Lewis does the kind of demolition job on his critics that resembles a bomb strike by a section of B-52s. Interesting then, that one day while driving down the interstate in roughly 2008 or so, I hear Colin Cowherd thundering loudly about Moneyball in an argument that entirely resembled that of Pat Gillick’s. He was aping an argument that had already been crushed by Michael Lewis some 4 years before. Did he ever bother to read the book before talking about it?
Ever since, whenever Colin has mentioned Moneyball, it has been in quiet hushed respectful tones. What he did got back to him, somehow.
Moneyball, much like the idiosyncratic Powerpoint presentations of John Boyd, acquired a power and a life far beyond its original scope. And Michael Lewis, having written something that transcended sports, is now used as a reference source by the likes of Ron Jaworski and Greg Cosell.