Demetri Martin Starring in Moneyball Also?

Demetri Martin will play will play Paul DePodesta, a computer-wielding Harvard-educated hotshot who became Beane’s right-hand. DePodesta went on to a much-maligned tenure as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and has most recently been working in the Padres organization.”

I don’t know what I expected, but between The Moneyball movie and The Blind Side movie, and what’s sure to be a Liar’s Poker movie, there’s going to be a lot of weird casting going one.

Demetri Martin Starring in Moneyball Also?

Michael Lewis on AIG

Michael Lewis makes a lot of sense in his latest column for Bloomberg.com, but he’s also on the wrong side of the blame game. Blaming the,

Millions of people [who] borrowed money they shouldn’t have borrowed and, not, typically, because they were duped or defrauded but because they were covetous and greedy: they wanted to own stuff they hadn’t earned the right to buy

is simplifying the issue and lets the lending banks off the hook. It’s been said before, but it’s important to remember (and will become painfully clear over the next couple years) that in the bank/borrower relationship, the lending party has the upper-hand. Finally, as the one guaranteed financial professional in the relationship, the lending bank, frankly, should have known better.

But then this fascinating nugget:

Goldman Sachs, which received about 8 percent of the pile, or $13 billion, has claimed publicly that the money was, to them, a matter of indifference, as Goldman had hedged itself against a possible collapse of AIG — by making bets against AIG.

If I understand this correctly, Goldman was making bets against the insurance company it was paying to insure its bets. If that’s correct, is it any wonder we’re in the mess we’re in?

Michael Lewis on AIG

Sandra Bullock joins ‘Blindside’ team

Michael Lewis movies are the next big thing, huh? First Brad Pitt and Steven Soderbergh in Moneyball, now word that Sandra Bullock will star in Lewis’ The Blind Side. The star of the book, left tackle Michael Oher, is scheduled to be picked in the top half of the NFL’s 2009 amateur draft, by the way. Seems like someone probably owns the option on Liars Poker, right? That would be topical.

Sandra Bullock joins ‘Blindside’ team

Michael Lewis on Shane Battier and the NBA

Michael Lewis checks in with a profile of player Shane Battier and statistical whiz kid Daryl Morey. Some nuggets for you:

The virus that infected professional baseball in the 1990s, the use of statistics to find new and better ways to value players and strategies, has found its way into every major sport. Not just basketball and football, but also soccer and cricket and rugby… — each one now supports a subculture of smart people who view it not just as a game to be played but as a problem to be solved.

[Interesting because this is a virus caused in part by Lewis’ book Moneyball]

There is a tension, peculiar to basketball, between the interests of the team and the interests of the individual. The game continually tempts the people who play it to do things that are not in the interest of the group. On the baseball field, it would be hard for a player to sacrifice his team’s interest for his own. Baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team one…[In football] the players most famous for being selfish — …Terrell Owens, for instance — are usually not so much selfish as attention seeking. Their sins tend to occur off the field.

…A point guard might selfishly give up an open shot for an assist…He’s racing down court for an open layup, and…he passes it back to a trailing teammate…the likelihood of scoring…declined. “The marginal assist is worth more money to the point guard than the marginal point,” Morey says. Blocked shots — they look great, but unless you secure the ball afterward, you haven’t helped your team all that much…Dikembe Mutombo, Houston’s 42-year-old backup center, famous for blocking shots, “has always been the best in the league in the recovery of the ball after his block,” says Morey, as he begins to make a case for Mutombo’s unselfishness before he stops and laughs. “But even to Dikembe there’s a selfish component. He made his name by doing the finger wag…And if he doesn’t catch the ball,” Morey says, “he can’t do the finger wag. And he loves the finger wag.” His team of course would be better off if Mutombo didn’t hold onto the ball long enough to do his finger wag…

It turns out there is no statistic that a basketball player accumulates that cannot be amassed selfishly.

“I thought he’d be the first black president,” Wetzel says. “He was Barack Obama before Barack Obama.”

In the statistically insignificant sample of professional athletes I’ve come to know a bit, two patterns have emerged. The first is, they tell you meaningful things only when you talk to them in places other than where they have been trained to answer questions. It’s pointless, for instance, to ask a basketball player about himself inside his locker room. For a start, he is naked; for another, he’s surrounded by the people he has learned to mistrust, his own teammates. The second pattern is the fact that seemingly trivial events in their childhoods have had huge influence on their careers.

One other interesting point in this article is that the Rockets gauge which teams in the league are looking at data the same way they are by how that team plays the game. I wonder if this causes them to over think aspects of the game, though, if they think there opponent is smarter than it is.

Michael Lewis on Shane Battier and the NBA

Some Hope For Media?

A reader of Talking Points Memo writes in to suggest there may be hope yet for struggling newspapers. Essentially, quite a few of the troubled newspapers operate profitably, just not profitably enough to cover the interest payments of these over-leveraged corporations.

So, these bankruptcies may in the medium to long run be good for journalism (in the traditional sense). Assuming the new owners emerge from bankruptcy with limited debt, the papers have many positive attributes upon which to earn a reasonable profit while building new sources of revenue. They have an unparalleled local focus and understanding, they are the most efficient vehicle for several categories of advertising, and they have significant advertising sales forces that can be re-focused on lines of business that can sustain the papers over the long haul. This is particularly true if the surviving owners are people who believe in the public trust mission of their papers and news-oriented web channels.

Also, in an interview with Michael Lewis in The Atlantic, we learn that Lewis isn’t concerned about the magazine industry.

Well it makes it a little hard for me to prophesize doom. And I hate spinning theories to which I’m an exception. So my sense is, there’ll always be a hunger for long-form journalism, and that it’s just a question of how it’s packaged. And that people will always figure out how to make it sort of viable. It’s never going to be a hugely profitable business: it’s more like the movie business or the car business in that there are all sorts of good non-economic reasons to be involved in it. The economic returns will always probably be driven down by too many people wanting to be in it.

But I don’t feel gloomy about the magazine business at all.

Some Hope For Media?

Chuck Klosterman Blog

Since my favorite authors refuse to have blogs of their own, I will do it for them. Here’s an article by Chuck Klosterman about Obama’s brother-in-law Craig Robinson a college basketball coach in Oregon. The famous campaign story of Michele making (NBA alumni) Craig let Obama play basketball with him and his friends is retold and analyzed from a different light.

Here’s Klosterman on The B.S. Report podcast. Haven’t listened yet, but I imagine it will be good.

And you know what else? Someone needs to come up with an Alltop channel that features all the articles by all the good authors who refuse to have blogs. I’m thinking Michael Lewis, Michael Pollan, Klosterman, maybe Susan Orlean if it’s about origami or orchids, maybe Krakauer, Gladwell because he never updates his site. There’s others. Who am I missing?

Chuck Klosterman Blog

Michael Lewis’ 7 Ways to “Repair a Broken Financial World”

As if a salve for people like me who have to go back to work tomorrow, Michael Lewis hits the New York Times Op-Ed pages this weekend with TWO articles with cheery titles. The End of the Financial World as We Know It and How to Repair a Broken Financial World.

Gleaned from these articles are 7 ways to begin the recovery:

1. “Congress might grant qualifying homeowners the ability to get new government loans based on the current appraised values without requiring their bank’s consent.”
2. “Stop making big regulatory decisions with long-term consequences based on their short-term effect on stock prices.”
3. “End the official status of the rating agencies.”
4. “Regulate credit-default swaps.”
5. “Impose new capital requirements on banks.”
6. “Break up any institution that becomes too big to fail.”
7. “Close the revolving door between the S.E.C. and Wall Street…But keep the door open the other way.”

The funny thing is, there’s nothing all that radical about most of these changes. A disinterested person would probably wonder why many of them had not been made long ago. A committee of people whose financial interests are somehow bound up with Wall Street is a different matter.

Michael Lewis’ 7 Ways to “Repair a Broken Financial World”

Brad Pitt in Moneyball

There are rumblings that Michael Lewis’ book about using undervalued resources to your advantage is going to be made into a movie, possibly starring Brad Pitt. No word yet on whether he’ll play Kevin Youkilis, Nick Swisher, Chad Bradford, Mark Teahen, or Billy Beane.

Incidentally, Nick Swisher, the 1st pick of the A’s the year Michael Lewis spent in Oakland, at 16th, was picked one pick after Scott Kazmir and one pick before Cole Hamels, 2 picks ridiculed in the book. The picks were ridiculed because Kazmir and Hamels were high school pitchers, though, judging by this year’s World Series, I’d say they worked out OK.

(Via kottke.org and Baseball Musings)

Brad Pitt in Moneyball