Getty ImagesThe movie version of “Moneyball” was very interesting in that it was built around something that was more or less the opposite of what it should have been.
The premise of the book (and the principles behind how the Oakland Athletics built baseball teams before anyone else) was that over a long enough period, the things that are most conducive to winning end up resulting in a large number of wins. The premise of the movie is that winning 20 games in a row was cool, and that their eventual loss to the Twins in the playoffs was in some way unfair.
The reason for this is that, in general, sports fans like to keep things as simple as possible, but ride a roller coaster of emotion throughout the course of the season. Take, for example, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who started out the season as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference with a 10-4 start. At that time, all those who defended their offseason moves were strutting around like Mick Jagger, telling all the nerds who kept looking up from their calculators to say, “Umm, actually,” where they could put their spreadsheets. This was a validation of Leafs Hockey as it is now constituted to the nth degree.
Then they started losing. A lot. From Game 15 to Game 46, they went 11-16-5, with only four regulation wins in that stretch. This, we were told, was regression that any idiot could have seen coming and boy didn't it just serve all those dumb jocks right for ever believing in this awful team. Those dumb jocks, by the way, had skulked off to the darker corners of the hockey universe because it appeared as though all the dorks with their math were going to end up being right, and so the less said about any of it, the better.
Then the Leafs started winning again, culminating in a six-game winning streak during which the team won four times in regulation, and twice more in the shootout. Suddenly the mob looking to shove people into lockers were back out in full force, crowing about how the team had righted the ship by finding their compete level, or whatever other mysticism had escaped them from November through the end of the first week of January.
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