I suspect I’m one of only 100 literate baseball fans in the world who hadn’t already read Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, but now I have, and if you’re one of the other 99, you should too. A few words on the book and on books and Lewis and the A’s and orthography and all that.
We were down in the Bay Area this last weekend, so we went to see the A’s complete a three-game sweep of KC (OK, the Royals the worst team in baseball just now). The picture above I think underlines the essential paradox of baseball, it’s a summer sport made for drinking beer, eating hot-dogs, and leaning back. At the same time, it’s Serious Business, it matters; enough that it takes five intent grown-ups to manage the business of hosing down the basepaths just right.
It was a good experience. I got decent tickets online a couple weeks in advance (website a bit klunky) at a decent price, the stadium is nothing to write home about but the seats aren’t uncomfortable and the sight-lines are good. The fans were super, a lot more interesting than the yuppies and suits and fashion statements at PacBell. Anyhow, the game was decided in the bottom of the tenth by a blooper down the right-field line, which we happened to be sitting along; I’d recommend an A’s game any time.
The Book · In particular, I’d recommend it as a prelude to reading Moneyball; the smells and feel of the ballpark add flavor, although Lewis is already good at flavor. I probably don’t have much useful to add to the reams of glowing reviews the book has already picked up, aside from nodding in agreement. I don’t think it’s that useful as a business book, but it’s fascinating (particularly towards the end) as a study of how a closed belief system reacts to the introduction of fact-backed heresy. Since the human race in general and technology profession in particular tend to the development of closed belief systems, this I think will find a lot of resonance with a lot of readers.
The Author · I’ve never really followed Michael Lewis’ career as such, but I realise now that I’ve read a few of his books over the years and I suspect there may not be a greater living writer of reportorial non-fiction. Liar’s Poker to my mind remains maybe the best general-purpose look at the culture and feel of the money business. I think Lewis, slowly and over the years, is building a legacy that will stand tall long after he’s in the grave.
Reading · What with having a family and a blog, and having lucked into a series of jobs that provide an excellent vantage point over the landscape of the tech biz, my reading habit has suffered these past few years. Aside from the usual background of airplane page-turners (detective, sci-fi, whatever) the Big Books/Year ratio has fallen way off.
Partly it’s the life background, but an increasing amount of the available reading bandwidth is filled by the endlessly-tempting freshness of slices of today’s life hot off the electronic press. When I can read first-hand accounts of corporate treachery or geopolitical treachery or (just to prove it’s not all treachery) Spring in New York, it can be tough to close shut down the computer and open the book.
Plurals · The correct way to refer to the Oakland Athletics Major League Baseball team is as the A’s. See that apostrophe before the S? This is a perfectly respectable device in English orthography, used also for example in referring to Grade 8’s and Acura NSX’s. It is not compulsory, for example consider WMDs and APIs. But the fact that the apostrophe is misused painfully by the semi-literate (there used to be a sign on the reception desk of a previous employer saying Visitor’s and Guest’s please report to reception) has led to sweeping categorical denunciations of the practice from the worst kind of supercilious usage pedants. Go catch an A’s game and lighten up.