From Moneyball to Adam Sandler's Hustle
How Moneyball Altered the Path of the Sports Movie
Back in February of 2020 I pitched a piece to Consequence of Sound about how The Way Back and Moneyball run parallel with each other to demonstrate the way sports movies have altered in the last twenty years: involving from inspirational films about championships to meditative stories. The pitch was accepted and meant to run just prior to that season of baseball’s opening day. Of course, the pandemic began. Opening day was pushed back. The Way Back left the news cycle. And the editor who original accepted the pitch left Consequence. So the urgency for this piece fell away.
Typically, even if a pitch hasn’t been accepted I still write the piece just in case I can use it somewhere else. So when the pandemic began, I already had this piece written. Earlier today I remembered this piece and decided to dust it off. And rather than pitch it, I added a new paragraph about Adam Sandler’s Hustle (now coming to Netflix) and am giving it to you.
“The cliché has long held that very few people bought the first Velvet Underground LP back in 1967; everyone who did, however, went on to form a band. Something similar occurred with Jake Kasdan’s comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. The movie played to mostly empty theaters upon its release in December of 2007. But nobody who did see it ever went on to make a cornily ridiculous life-of-a-musician biopic,” wrote Alan Scherstuhl to explain how Walk Hard almost destroyed every single cliché familiar to the musical biopic.
Sports films have experienced a similar reckoning. From the early-80’s to the mid-aughts, a slew of sports films focused solely on winning and championships, resulting in a punch the air exuberance for the little guy making good. It makes sense. We play to win. And everybody loves a rags to riches comeback story like Angels in the Outfield or Remember the Titans. Bennett Miller’s somber, meditative and cerebral film Moneyball, however, chose a quieter path. Following in the tonal footsteps of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Sugar, that phenomenal indie centers a young baseball player from the Dominican Republic as he navigates the sport’s seedy international signing system, Moneyball (unlike Sugar, it was major box office hit) changed the sports movie paradigm.