Monday, June 09, 2014

Moments of Conception 018 -- The Parking Lot Scene from Moneyball

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the parking lot scene in Moneyball:

What can we learn?

Ask questions, but also question answers. Pete is no athlete. He hasn’t spent his life in baseball. And he doesn’t have a traditional view of the game. He’s a chubby, entry level geek with a degree in economics and a bunch of radical ideas about how to asses a player’s value. But that reality allows him to break through the walls of denial and ask the questions aren’t being asked. And so, his character, both physically and intellectually, personifies the entire crux of his approach. Oakland doesn’t need a roster of expensive superstar players who look good in uniforms, they need guys who can score runs. Period. As it reads in the original screenplay, “They thought it was the chicken that made the chicken soup taste good, when really, it was the onions. And onions are a lot cheaper than chicken.” Pete’s players, in this case, are the onions. Just like him. I’m reminded of another powerful line in the script that didn’t make the final cut of the movie. Pete says, “There’s a much more difficult question than asking how to win baseball games. Once you begin to pull at that string, your understanding of the world might begin to unravel.” What dangerous questions are you asking?

Walk in and create a problem. Pete has two minutes in the parking lot to make his case. That’s it. The moment has come for the big pitch, pardon the pun, and if he doesn’t create a holy shit moment right then and there, he may never get the change to do it again. Initially, we taste his fear. He even apologizes to Billy for what he believes. But once he gets going, once he musters the confidence, he doesn’t tuck it in, he doesn’t turn down the volume, he just owns it and goes for it. He finds the biggest thing he’s trying to say, and just says it. Pete may not be able to leg out a triple, but he sure knows how to paint a picture that changes everything. And that’s what prolific communicators do. They equip people to spot a new story with their own eyes. Instead of trying to change people’s minds, they create a problem that leaves people with no choice but to change their minds on their own. They make sure people walk away from their interactions with beautiful reminder of what might be. Are you giving a pitching or telling a story?

When you’re good, you make others gooder. Oakland’s veteran scouting department, which consists of ten grizzled old tobacco chewing lizards who played baseball in the sixties, still operates the same way it has for decades. And that’s precisely the problem. Their approach is based on history and wisdom and subjective opinion, i.e., this player looks like a superstar. Pete’s approach is based on math and logic and sabermetrics, i.e., this player contributes the most to the team’s offense. Which isn’t to say there’s not a place for instinct. But when you’re a financially limited team playing an unfair game overshadowed by rich teams who can buy their way to a championship, obviously something isn’t working. And so, they employed Pete’s objective approach and won a record breaking twenty games in a row. But what’s really fascinating is, although they still failed to take home the championship, a year later, The Red Sox won their first world championship in ninety years embracing Pete’s philosophy. It’s a humble reminder that the mark of a great thinker is how far your thoughts travel. And that the purpose of magic is to illuminate and elevate everyone, not just your own reflection. Whose game are you raising?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?