Curt Schilling The (Video) Gamer

27 01 2012

Say ‘Curt Schilling’ and what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Bloody sock, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Phillies, World Series, outspoken. Plenty of word associations can be made, and many of them are baseball-related. For good reason, since Schilling is an all-time great starting pitcher. Two-hundred sixteen wins, a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts are one hell of a career. Don’t forget the six All-Star Games, three Cy Young runner-ups and three World Series rings. (An 11-2 record, 2.23 ERA and 8.1 K/9 rate in 133 1/3 postseason innings isn’t too shabby, either.)

All of this is to say that Schilling is a really impressive baseball pitcher. Which makes it understandable that the competitiveness and determination he displayed on the mound might carry over to another part of his life. In this case, it’s his ownership in a video game company – 38 Studios. I recently interviewed Schilling about 38 Studios (38 representing his former jersey number) for ESPN The Magazine. The story is in the issue that comes out today. I thought it would be helpful to include on here the full 30-minute interview we conducted. So, you can read the story that is posted below this line and then turn to the interview. Enjoy and let me know what you think of Schilling’s mindset. Does he inspire you? Does he turn you off? Get at me through @KyleStack or +KyleStack.

Curt Schilling – The Reckoning

Kyle Stack: Why did you choose to start 38 Studios?
Curt Schilling: It’s just something I’ve always done – gaming. I’ve been doing it 30 years now; I’ve been gaming since 1980. And when I looked at my post-baseball career, I knew I was going to want to stay busy. I didn’t know it would be this busy. This was kind of a natural fit for me. I’ve always had a passion for it, always been interested in it and I’ve developed some relationships with athletes. It’s become a much bigger thing now. You won’t find a team where half the players don’t have a console; they have to have a laptop when they travel. But it was just something I’m interested in. It seemed like a natural fit once everything was said and done, and I wanted to put my energy into something else.

Kyle: What was your vision for the company when you started it?
Curt: I wanted to take a shot at being the best in the world at something else. I think I’ve always played with the ‘Go Big Or Go Home’ mentality. I think there were some chuckles at first – a lot of chuckles at first, I’m sure. I’m sure the company and I were the butt of a lot of jokes for a couple years, but I think, The Reckoning, the response that it’s getting…the conversation used to be 38 Studios the game company Curt Schilling started and now when they mention me as a part of this, it’s at the end of an article. The games have opened people’s eyes. I wanted to take a shot at doing something better than everybody else did it. In a job or an industry where nobody gave me any good odds.

Kyle: Has that vision changed now that 38 Studios has begun releasing games?
Curt: The end goal: no. But everything and nothing has changed in the meantime. The carryover from my former job and career as it relates to team and team-building and culture, and then this is a totally different work environment. That’s different.

Kyle: What do you spend most of your day doing?
Curt: I get in here anywhere from 7 to 8 o’clock in the morning. A lot of meetings, a lot of email. [Laughs] A lot of play testing. Every day is kind of a little different challenge. That’s been probably the hardest, most unsettling thing for me is being ADD and ADHD and all things that go with that…the thing I loved about starting pitching was the routine. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday all went the exact same and then I pitched on Saturday. This is the exact opposite of that life. Every day is a dice roll.

Kyle: When you email, I’m sure that includes a whole range of subjects – marketing, game development…
Curt: I’m on the periphery of all that stuff. I used to be the point man for all those emails, and I’m now a guy who’s cc’d. The best managers that I played for and played against weren’t the best tacticians. That always helps. But for me the best managers – the guys I was most committed to be around – were the guys who understood where to put their 25 players in the best position to succeed. Managing a baseball team, managing a football team, it isn’t as much about X’s-and-O’s; it’s about managing people. When you got Manny Ramirez and Tim Wakefield in the same clubhouse, or Jason Varitek, the same rules don’t always apply.

Kyle: Were your experiences with your managers primarily what helped you in learning how to run a company?
Curt: It’s one of the many things that helped me, absolutely. I’ve always believed that when you talk about the upper one-half of one percent in the world, you’re talking about a minute percentage of the multi-billion people on this planet. You could make an argument that for a couple years in my career I was one of the five best people in the world at what I did. What I tried to find out was why. I played with a lot of players who were physically gifted but most of them didn’t make it to the big leagues and didn’t succeed. I realize that when you talk about the upper one-half of one percent of people in the world, you’re talking about I think 95 percent of it is above the shoulders. They think differently, they do things differently. I think there’s a tremendous fear of failure. There was always for me.

And I think the other thing is I was incredibly coachable because I wanted to be the best. I wanted to learn about my craft, and this is no different. I sit in a lot of meetings and I’m around a lot of situations that it’s more important that I listen than talk. That’s obviously a challenge for me at times. But that’s what I’ve had to learn. The company is better and performs better in a lot of places when I don’t have input because these are really smart people [who work here].

Kyle: I’d think that the way you interact with people at 38 Studios is a lot different than how you interacted with teammates and coaches in baseball because of the differences in work environments.
Curt: It is and it isn’t. One of the things that I noticed is everybody wants to matter. Whether it’s the 25th guy on the roster or the ace; everybody wants to be important and have input. There are a lot of similarities if you look at the end goal: best in the world or world champions. It ends up being about everybody. A lot of people don’t get that, especially in the business world. In the business world, the priorities are who do I manage, who reports to me. It’s almost about lack of accountability. People don’t want to get in trouble for stuff.

What I’ve tried to do here is to create a very different environment. I don’t care if you don’t make a mistake if there’s effort in it and positive intent behind it; just don’t make the same mistake twice. That’s absolutely a baseball lesson. There are two types of players: those who are afraid to fail and those that are paralyzed by failure. The world has a lot of people who are paralyzed by failure because they don’t want to lose. They don’t want to get beat. But you make people understand losing and failing are two very different things. I played a job where you started the season in your head 50 and 50 and what you do in those other 62 games kind of determines how good you are. In a job where 30 percent success rate was Hall of Fame material, that’s a challenge. People don’t understand the difference between losing and failure. The only way you can actually fail something is by quitting. I’ve never quit anything in my life. I’ve lost a lot, but I became who I became and I did what I did because I hated losing so much that I didn’t ever want to feel it again. That’s what pushed me. So, I wanted to create an environment bought into the future of what we do and who we are.

It’s funny because six or eight months ago I had jerseys made for the company. Majestic made these jerseys, we put a 38 Studios logo on it and everybody’s name was on the back and it said 38 Studios on the front. I did it for two reasons: one, I thought it looked kind of cool. Two, I wanted to use the thing I had always heard in sports, that you play for the name on the front and not the name on the back. And that’s a very easy way to get a 23-year-old person who’s just come out of the Rhode Island School of Design as an artist to understand one of the core concepts of every world champion team there’s ever been. The more examples and the more times I could talk about those things…I was a field guy. Don’t tell me what the manual says to do; tell me what it feels like. And I think there’s a lot of that here. Explaining that to these people, I can give you a text book answer for it. But there’s an emotional piece that you need to understand.

Kyle: What makes The Reckoning unique among games?
Curt: Everything. I saw a review last week where a couple guys were going through the game. They were marking off where they felt like the game kind of felt like something else, where we had done something from God of War or Oblivion. It ended up being 14 or 15 games out of the RPG genre that they felt like we took some stuff from and at the end, it said, ‘This game isn’t a bit of this or a bit of that. They’ve taken the best pieces of everything and turned it into something we’ve never played before.’

This is God of War meets Oblivion. Those are probably the two most-referenced titles as you talk about [The] Reckoning. We’ve created combat that is, second to second, as deep and immersive as you choose it to be. If you just want to mash buttons, you can do that, too. We’ve created 10,000 years of history and lore where you can lose yourself for 100 hours reading the books and the lore and the history of the world or none. We’ve given both genres – the action-fighting combat player and the deep, questing RPG player – a game where they can get immersed in and I believe we’re the first company to ever succeed in its execution. I know others have tried it but I think we’re actually the first to do it.

Kyle: What type of person will enjoy this game?
Curt: If you’ve played any of the Oblivion series, you’re going to love it. If you’ve played God of War, if combat is something you enjoy, then you’re going to love it. Everything about the quest system and the combat system is easy to learn but very difficult to master. You look for that magic elixir when you’re creating entertainment and the team in Baltimore nailed this one. If you loved Fable, you’re going to love this game. I’ve heard a lot of people say this is what Fable 3 tried to be. In addition to being stunningly gorgeous – the world is amazing – I don’t think fans of any of those titles will have a problem putting hours and hours of time into this product.

Kyle: What is it about the Fantasy and RPG genres that appeal to you?
Curt: Well, I think fantasy is inherent in all of us, to some degree. When you were a kid, you were a cowboy or astronaut or a knight, a hero. We all grow up believing in fantasy as one of the things that carry kids through their childhood, in a good way. And I don’t think we ever grow out of it. I think it matures.

It used to be a hidden indulgence for people. To find out somebody in Hollywood plays Dungeons & Dragons – publicists don’t say those things about players. You have athletes openly admitting to spending…now, if you at professional sports now, what’s the coolest thing these athletes can do? They can get a commercial for PlayStation or Call of Duty; it’s hilarious. That, to me, is kind of how much entertainment has invaded and is so pervasive in our lives. How we get entertained is different and what we entertain ourselves with is very different. We’re growing up with a generation of kids who have the Internet as their playground and has been since they were 7, 8 or 9.

Kyle: Did you get a lot of your teammates in your playing days to play video games?
Curt: Oh, absolutely. The last year I was in Boston 2007, I had J.D. Drew and Coco Crisp playing World of Warcraft. It’s funny because Coco ended up going to Kansas City and Zack Greinke is a hardcore World of Warcraft player, and they were running a guild of 60 people. All of the people were Major League Baseball players.

When I was in Arizona and then Boston, I had two gaming console units packed up in bags that we would take on the plane with us with portable TVs and play Madden or whatever on long flights.

Kyle: Well, as a baseball player and a pitcher, you’re always on the road and you have some downtime, right?
Curt: Oh, yeah. If you look at a potential nirvana for a gamer, I had the perfect life. I had a lot of disposable income, I had a lot of free time and I was by myself a lot. And that was part of the reason I became such an avid gamer. The other reason was you guys. When you look at the proliferation of sports media and media in general, you didn’t have to look far to get a story about an elite athlete doing something wrong. Being in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, whatever. I was in enough situations – or a couple situations – early in my career where I wasn’t actually involved in anything that happened. I was just in the area and the event ended up being a story on SportsCenter. And when I met my wife and got married, I realized I was a bad choice away from jeopardizing my marriage. I had kids. This is what I did on the road. This was my social life.

When you look at MMOs – Massive Multiplayer Online games – I had the ability to “hang out”, meet people. The stereotype of living in mom’s basement: that’s not the gamer anymore.

Kyle: Does having this studio satisfy your competitiveness?
Curt: It’s different. The challenge is in baseball, as a starter, that every five days I got my fix. I would lose and spend four days being more miserable than anybody on the planet and then I could do something about it on the fifth day. The wins and losses right now are much further apart. You have to find those daily wins. My favorite part of this company is being on the floor and hanging out with the team in the dugout, so to speak, talking about what we’re doing, where we want to go and what we want to be. Being able to empower these kids to do things they never thought possible. That’s kind of my job here is to inspire these people to do things they never even considered, much less considered they could do.

Kyle: Was there one facet of your industry that you learned about more than anything else during development of The Reckoning?
Curt: One of the things I had an idea of early on is how little value is placed on people and their families. This is an industry of very high turnover and a lot of attrition. They don’t place a premium on the people. It’s all about fiscal quarters and shareholder meetings, much more so than it is about the health and well-being of their families. Coming from a profession where they say a happy wife is a happy life, I think it’s something I’ve tried to bring here.

Valuing not just the employees but their families and making their families understand they’re every bit a part of this company as the employees themselves. I went to work for 20-something years in professional baseball, and I don’t ever remember whether it was making $700 per month in Rookie ball or $15 million, I don’t ever remember my paycheck being the reason why I was happy or sad. I was miserable and happy for all the same reasons you are. When my family was healthy and good and the team was winning, life was good. When my wife not healthy or my kids were sick or we were arguing, it wasn’t good; it didn’t matter how I was pitching. I don’t think a lot of people understand that.

And obviously it’s easy for me to say, because I did make a lot of money, but I didn’t start out making a lot of money. I didn’t sign for a big bonus; I didn’t make a lot of money as a young player. And I took the same risks and chances everybody else did. But even after getting to the pinnacle of the game – world championships and things like that – my happiness had to do with my faith in God and the happiness and health of my family.

Kyle: It seems like part of your outlook on how you treat people at 38 Studios is because you didn’t get that while playing baseball.
Curt: I would agree with that. You think about, I played 20-something years. The amount of people I played with as teammates is well over 1,000. I probably legitimately talk with less than ten. You don’t become close with a lot of people because the life is not conducive to it. You’re forced to be with people; you don’t have a choice. You do here. To me, that’s the value. This is not a place to work. It’s a place to belong. I think it’s a very different outlook and approach. Being apart of this team is different. It matters.

Kyle: Was there one challenge you faced in developing The Reckoning that you proved difficult to overcome?
Curt: The game is built on proprietary technology. It’s our own engine and all things that go with it. But for me, the biggest challenge has been in the marketing and advertising [of the game]. Players of both genres – the combat-action genre and the RPG genre – neither of them believe the other aspect is actually there. Our combat players, when you look at this game it’s very hard to believe that a quest, stat-driven system is what drives the gameplay. For questing and RPG players, it’s hard to believe that it has a true meaning or impact on the combat. Explaining to people what it is has been the biggest challenge.

The development piece…they cut it, they figured it out, they knew what they had to do and they committed to it. They busted their asses and wore themselves out over the past year and a half on insane schedules to do that. They always worry and I’m sure there was always concern about actually delivering different pieces. In the end, we actually did what we set out to do and it’s been very challenging to tell people exactly how we did it or what we did.

Kyle: You obviously have to know your customers very well.
Curt: That’s the challenge is we’re asking EA to market something they’ve never marketed. They truly don’t believe it’s been done before. I don’t think anybody has made this game before. Other people have tried but we’ve executed. You were asking EA to market something that traditional standard marketing and PR advertising campaigns aren’t going to work. It’s been a challenge.

Given the economy we’ve been in the last five or six years, I’ve been able to help save and create 400-something jobs. And that means 400 families have had their lives changed by being involved here, which is a pretty powerful and cool thing.

Kyle: It’s good to see that you think that way. I wish other companies had the same approach.
Curt: I mean, honestly, I have $30 million-plus of my own money in the company. I have my own skin in the game, so there’s a personal piece to this that [other companies] don’t have. I’ve gone all-in; I’ve bet all-in on these people. And companies generally don’t bet on their people. They bet on their products and there is a big difference.





Definition of a Dynasty

23 01 2012

I had a short Twitter debate today with my friend Paul Bourdett on the timeline of the New England Patriots’ dynasty. I tweeted a remark that the Pats’ dynasty is ongoing with their recent admission into Super Bowl XLVI (46). He retorted that the franchise was no longer in dynasty mode since it hasn’t won the big game since 2004 (representing the 2003 season). He thought it ended with their Super Bowl loss to the Giants a few years ago. He made me consider what standards I have for calling an organization a dynasty.

Before I get into that, I want to point out that terming a franchise a dynasty can be made on a case-by-case basis. There’s no clean definition for it.

My first general rule is that the same core group of players and/or coaches must win multiple league championships, e.g. Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series. And the time frame in which that franchise was elite in its sport should have lasted for at least five seasons. By saying ‘elite’, that doesn’t mean a team has to appear in a semi-final or final series or game every year. There are times when a team has a great regular season and flames out early in the playoffs. Yet if that campaign is sandwiched between others in which it advances far in the playoffs – or wins the damn thing – then it’s fine.

A good example is the ’90s Dallas Cowboys. They get automatically called a dynasty because they won three Super Bowls in four years – ’92, ’93, ’95. They were absolutely a dynasty, but I think people forget that their run atop the NFL was relatively short. In that four-year window in which they won three Super Bowls, they won 12 regular season games three times and 13 once. In ’94, they lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. (It was technically in ’95 but it was for the ’94 season.)

Yet the ‘Boys won 11 games on the front-end of their Super Bowl years and 10 games on the back-end. In totality, they had six straight 10-game win seasons, with four of them having the ‘Boys playing at a Super Bowl level. I suppose it’s arguable whether they were truly elite for five straight years, but they come close enough.

I consider the Patriots to still be a dynasty because, first and foremost, Tom Brady has been the quarterback and Bill Belichick has been the head coach. They’ve been around the whole time. I can’t argue the Super Bowl title thing, since they won one in ’01 to kickstart their dynasty, two more in ’03 and ’04 and haven’t brought home the Lombardi Trophy since then. They obviously lost in ’07 (technically ’08; these NFL seasons are so confusing) and they’re back in the ’11 season. Look at their overall timeline, though.

Since the 2001 season, they’ve won 11, 9, 14, 14, 10, 12, 16, 11, 10, 14 and 13 regular season games. That’s a run of almost 10 consecutive seasons with double-digit wins. They’ve made the playoffs all but two years – the nine-win campaign in ’02 and the weird 11-victory season in ’08 when Brady was hurt and Matt Cassell QB’d the team. The Pats have been remarkably consistent in this NFL era of increased free agent movement. This is their fifth Super Bowl appearance during that time. Given how little difference there is in team quality between the Super Bowl winner and loser, I think Super Bowl losses shouldn’t count too much against a team.

That’s why I consider the ’90s Atlanta Braves to be a dynasty. They don’t pass my requirement of multiple titles – they won a single World Series during their 15-year reign atop the National League East from 1991-2005 – but they were still so damn dominant. They nearly strung together 15 consecutive NL East titles. The only division title they didn’t capture during that ’91-05 period was in the strike-shortened summer of ’94, when they finished second, even though they may have won the NL East had the season not halted in August.

During their reign of terror on the NL, the Braves lost four World Series – ’91, ’92, ’96, ’99. This got people to call them the Buffalo Bills of MLB, although they were stronger over a much longer period of time than the western New York club. Extended dominance must count for something, especially when factoring in the need to replace productive players due to injuries, retirement or reduced, you know, productivity.

Anyway, I think the Patriots are still in the midst of their dynasty, which stands a decade long. I’m interested to hear (or read) from my readers about this subject. Do you think the Patriots are still a dynasty? What is your criteria for determining what constitutes a dynasty? Fire away on here or get at me on Twitter (@KyleStack) or Google+ (+KyleStack).





Toronto Blue Jays’ new logo/uniforms

18 11 2011

The Toronto Blue Jays just sent a press release with information and images of their new logos and uniforms. It doesn’t seem like much has changed, although I’ll let you be the judge. Here are the new unis followed by their lettering and secondary logos (I couldn’t get the primary logo to download):

Toronto Blue Jays uniforms

Toronto Blue Jays 2012 logos

             

  





Another Miami Experiment

12 11 2011

It ticks me off that the Miami sports community continually attracts the attention that it does. In the late ’90s, it was Jimmy Johnson’s move to coach the Dolphins, the Pat Riley/Alonzo Mourning Heat and the Marlins’ out-of-nowhere World Series win in ’97 that captured SportsCenter highlights and magazine articles.

Chris Bosh Face

By the early ’00s, Miami college football was back on the radar and the Marlins grabbed another ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ World Series victory in ’03. In ’04, Shaq Diesel himself was deal to the Heat. He and Dwyane Wade grabbed yet another major sports championship for the city in ’06, making it four sports titles (Marlins 2, Heat 1, The U 1) in a nine-year period for that ungrateful city.

Then something amazing happened. That horrible sports city which fancies itself as a New York- or Los Angeles-like town without the requisite passion fell into the mother of all sports ditches. The Heat won 44 games in their first post-title year, then captured only 15 and 43 Ws in the two seasons following that, through ’08-09. (They won a respectable 47 games in ’09-10.)

The Dolphins won a magnificently precious 1 game in ’07, briefly gained relevance with an 11-win campaign the following year, then submerged back into obscurity with consecutive 7-win seasons. The U waded into an abyss as murky as South Florida’s waterways as they won 5, 7, 9 and 7 games in ’07-10. The Marlins were marginally effective after their 71-win ’07 season, racking up 84, 87 and 80 victories in ’08-10.

During that time period, the Miami sports scene was best known for its biggest star (the aforementioned DWade) being made of paper mache, its second biggest star (the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez) not giving a fuck and for missing the one star that got away (Drew Brees). Miami sports were pathetic. Life was great.

Then the Summer of LeBron happened. James, DWade and Chris Bosh Face pulled off what was likely a two- or three-year plan by teaming together to make the Heat relevant again. (The irony of them bringing increased attention from casual sports fans to the NBA is that it was likely the tipping point for NBA owners to lock out the players for all they’re worth, thus eradicating all those fans who found the League interesting in the first place.)

The U still sucks (and was killed by Yahoo! Sports in a transcendent bit of sports journalism), and the Dolphins are once again an NFL doormat. But now the Marlins want to share that South Florida sunshine with the Heat. They want to sign big-time free agent after free agent (or at least give the appearance of wanting to do so) to coincide with the opening of their new stadium and their new re-branding. Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes are among the big names who the Marlins are reportedly interesting in signing.

Miami Marlins' new logo.

The Marlins already have Hanley and, more importantly, young studs Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison. They have Josh Johnson and a few other talented hurlers on their pitching staff. Now, they’ll have a sparkling new 37,000-seat ballpark. (With an outstanding collection of art that will go inside it, a la Cowboys Stadium and Amway Center.) If they sign either Reyes or Pujols, then my head will explode. Miamians don’t deserve them.

Florida has no state income tax. Miami has beautiful weather most of the year and the most gorgeous women anywhere. They have LeBron, DWade, Leftover Reggie Bush, Stanton, Lomo and enough horrific uniform combinations among the Dolphins, Heat and Marlins to make anyone with bad fashion sense blush. They have enough already. I’m rooting against the Marlins in getting any significant MLB free agent this off-season as much as I root against the unreasonable small-market NBA owners trying to break the players. (Another story for a different day.) I want South Florida to stop receiving so many prized sports stars and the attention that comes with them.

Fans there don’t appreciate what they have, as shown by various teams’ attendance figures. Save the comments about the depressed South Florida real estate market. Marlins games cost next to nothing; they’re cheaper than movie tickets or any night at a bar or restaurant. South Floridians just don’t give a damn about sports. My rant is over. Thanks for reading.





Moneyball (Spoiler Alert)

21 09 2011

*I’ll be nice and warn you not to read this if you don’t want to read details of the Moneyball movie. Go read Quotes of the Week again.*

What do I know about Moneyball? I know I’ve read it twice and the first time, in 2006, I obliterated the book in about two days. That was at a time when I had ramped up my interest in fantasy sports; my mind was intrigued about analyzing the game from a quantitative perspective in order to discover “true” player value. I never thought while reading the book that Brad Pitt would one day play the part of Billy Beane.

I was invited to an advanced screening of Moneyball earlier tonight. I certainly wasn’t among the first members of the general public to see it. There was a media screening Sunday night, and I believe a premiere in Oakland last night. Tonight, I joined hundreds (I think) of others at the Regal Cinema on W. 42nd Street and turned in my cell phone (!) before going into the theater. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had heard this movie was sort of like the Social Network for baseball. I guess that conclusion was drawn, in part, by Aaron Sorkin holding a screenwriting credit for each movie.

I’ll get to the point. Most folks who know little to nothing about baseball, Billy Beane or Moneyball will probably like this flick. It’s well-acted (Pitt nails Beane’s spirit), well-written and has a good pace to it, with a slight lull toward the 10-20 minute mark near the end. The audience at my show, who I presume didn’t know much about Moneyball, laughed at a lot of parts of the movie at which I would expect people without Moneyball knowledge would laugh. People got it.

Most folks like me, a die-hard baseball fan who’s read the book, will get annoyed at how dumbed-down the movie is for the unenlightened crowd. Not that it’s a bad thing. This is a movie, so it must contain the emotion and yearning to explain itself that attracts people who aren’t baseball fans. The only thing I was truly disappointed in was that the movie ignored the MLB Draft process. Those were my favorite clips from the book, where Michael Lewis explained in great detail and energy how Beane managed a draft – the pitfalls and joy that come with it.

I don’t know what else to say about Moneyball. Jonah Hill was passable, although his character’s name was not the actual person portrayed in the book. (This didn’t disappoint me so much because I figured the real-life character didn’t give approval for his name to be used.) Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor, so he played Art Howe appropriately. The names of the other actors didn’t ring a bell when I saw them in credits. Robin Wright has only a bit role in the movie.

This is basically one of those films where the lead role is in almost every scene. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if there was a scene that didn’t involve Pitt. One more note: women who like Pitt will adore him in this film. He has great hair. Ultimately, this is a wonderful movie to see for someone who is intrigued by Moneyball but who has little knowledge of it. For the die-hard baseball fan, there is nothing to be learned here that can’t already be consumed in great detail through the book.





Colbert invades MLB

6 08 2011

I’m a fan of sports leagues thinking outside the box. Social media has provided a new platform on which sports leagues can engage their fans, to let them know they’re thinking of creative ways to market their game to them. This is why I was optimistic about Major League Baseball’s decision to let Stephen Colbert run their official Twitter account yesterday (August 5).

Now, I’m not actually a Colbert fan. I don’t find him funny – I think he rants and raves too much. Call me ignorant, but I’m much more likely to watch The Daily Show than The Colbert Report. Humor preference is a fickle thing; there is something Jon Stewart has that I find more appealing than Colbert. But we know how popular Colbert is. Colbert Report is a ratings hit. His Twitter account has more than 2.53 million followers. People like the guy – many of the same people who probably are fans of MLB.

It makes sense for MLB to go outside its comfort zone by personalizing what is one of their central news feeds. We all know the news value of Twitter. Nowhere else can an organization broadcast a message quicker and gain a closer connection to its fans.

Colbert posted 19 tweets yesterday on MLB’s account. Most of them were not funny. Remember, I don’t find Colbert all that humorous. But I also think he was limited in what he could actually joke about. I’m sure MLB put certain rules in place for what was fair game and what was off limits. And assuredly Colbert had some sort of inner-conversation, or at least a sensibility, that @MLB wasn’t the appropriate platform for him to make a dirty joke or to make fun of someone or something too harshly. But the comedic value of his tweets wasn’t really the point.

The point was that MLB proved it was willing to bend whatever unofficial Twitter rules exist about a major organization permitting a comedian, or some other celebrity, to take over its Twitter account for a period of time. MLB showed it values its followers enough that it wants to entertain them – not just provide them with scores and injury updates. Perhaps this was a ploy by MLB to increase its Twitter following. They gained approximately 12,000 by going from 1.405 million to 1.417 million. That’s not a bad thing to want more followers. Many of the people who followed @MLB just to keep Colbert’s tweets in their timeline may find it worthwhile to continue following the account. I’m among them, almost entirely because I was impressed that MLB was flexible enough to allow for an unaffiliated celebrity to control its message for a day.





Riggleman a Quitter

29 06 2011

I’m late to this subject but so be it. I was disappointed in Jim Riggleman quitting the Nationals last week because of a contract discrepancy. What caused me more annoyance was how a pair of highly-respected baseball journalists rationalized Riggleman’s decision to quit because the Nationals wouldn’t pick up his 2012 option. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s Buster Olney each justified Riggleman’s decision; I highly doubt they would have kept the same attitude had a player done what Riggleman did.

On the day of Riggleman’s decision, Heyman wrote in consecutive tweets that the manager is a “tremendous individual” and that he applauded his decision, given that, in Heyman’s view, the Nationals acted irrationally.

Regarding Riggleman, Olney took a more calculated view of the situation, although he did point out that Riggleman is a “very respectful person.” I might be too critical of Olney, since he didn’t take Heyman’s path in outright supporting his resignation.

What bothered me so much is that each writer felt the need to state a positive quality of Riggleman near the outset of each of his tweets about the situation. It felt like a need to soften the blow of whatever criticism they might offer. I can’t imagine a player would be treated the same way if he quit on his team in-season because of a contract dispute. Remember the avalanche of negativity directed toward Manny Ramirez in his final days on the Red Sox?

I’d prefer not to be pessimistic but it felt as though Heyman – likely more than Olney – was voicing his support for Riggleman to protect a source. After all, managers usually have a longer life in the Majors than players. Perhaps Heyman has a long-standing relationship with Riggleman. I just can’t see any other viewpoint on Riggleman other than that he deserted his team for selfish reasons. It wasn’t noble and it wasn’t justifiable.

As Dan Patrick stated on his radio show, Riggleman was under contract for this season and still had a job to perform. Players are critiqued so often by the media for thinking only of themselves at a time when their team needs them. This was an opportunity for Heyman to hold a manager accountable similar to the expectations of a player.