Sunday, September 25, 2011


Great day yesterday--spent the first part of the day with friends, ShopHopping, eating and schmoozing, and then saw a great movie with Mr. Pug. A movie I would never have chosen but I really enjoyed. 

A baseball movie, for a couple that never, never--well, hardly ever--goes to a baseball game. What's the deal? And what does it have to do with a knitting blog? Well, it does.

First off, it was a well-acted movie. I'm not a huge Brad Pitt fan because I've always viewed him as a pretty guy without much substance but, well into his forties, he's growing into his looks much the same way Harrison Ford has. He could, in my opinion, become a Clooney--Beautiful at a Certain Age. There are some other well-respected character actors in the movie like Philip Seymour Hoffman, but also some new faces (at least to me) like Jonah Hill. So, not a Beautiful People movie, just good acting and a good story.

Moneyball is based on the real story of an Oakland Athletics general manager faced with competing against larger-market, bigger-budget teams like the New York Yankees, who bought and stole talent from smaller, less well-funded teams. In a year when he lost three of his superstars to such teams, he had the challenge of rebuilding from the ground up on a beer budget. He became convinced that the answer could be found in statistics--that if he could find the players who could (statistically, at least) get on base more often, he could win ballgames. He was battled every step of the way by his scouts, the team's manager, and a skeptical press, yet that team ended up winning an unprecedented 20 games in a row that year (although not the Big Win they were looking for). 

And how does this relate to knitting? Hold on, hold on ... I'm getting there.

Now, I'm really not a student of baseball but the characterizations of the old-time scouts in Moneyball rang true to me. They sounded an awful lot like my father did when he talked about baseball, which he loved way more than anything else in his life, including us. He talked about baseball players the way old racetrack touts talk about horses--about stride and form and athletic build and how they "look" at their particular chosen "spot" on the field. Intuition and past experience play heavily in choosing potential winners. This one's a mudder, that one's good for the sprint but can't go the long haul. Always bet on a red horse, or one with a star on his forehead. (I had a BFF long ago who always bet on a horse with the name "Steve" or one with the title "Doctor." A horse named Dr. Steve would have sent her into ecstasy. She won as often as anyone else, as far as I could see.) 

One player in Moneyball was even criticized for having an ugly girlfriend which supposedly spoke to his self-confidence--how could he be a good player if he didn't have the confidence to have a pretty girlfriend?

So, first and foremost, Moneyball reminded me of my father and of another longtime friend, Larry. I've lost touch with Larry over the years I've been here in Atlanta, but being with him always made me think of my father because of his love of baseball. Larry was the first person who ever explained to me why baseball was more of an intellectual exercise than a game like football or basketball, which were (in his opinion) purely athletic pursuits.

My father died in 1979 and never knew the 2002 team that Moneyball is about but he'd have LOVED this movie. It combined his love of All Things Mathematical with his favorite sport.

But here's how it relates to knitting--you knew I'd get there eventually, didn't you?

I picked up some yarn at Only Ewe and Cotton Too yesterday (hi, Elyse and Bill!) because it was flat-out beautiful. Oh, and it felt good, too. Zara Chine, a gorgeous DK weight, heathered bright red with a hint of black. Great twist, fabulous color and perfect for a vest pattern I have in mind.

Perfect? Well, not exactly because the vest (the Portland Zippered Vest if it matters)--heavily cabled and intricately patterned, calls for worsted weight. If I'm going to use the Zara, it's going to require some heavy rethinking of the pattern to make up for the difference in gauge and weight. Thankfully, Susan D volunteered to help me and it MIGHT work but that's really not my inclination. My inclination, like the old baseball scouts, is to use my intuition and say, "oh, what the heck! I'm sure it'll all work out" because I desperately WANT it to work out. 

But that's really not my experience--I have a pile of failed projects that didn't "work out" because I skimped on the planning (and plodding) process.

The way it's going to work out is with a heavy application of math and statistics, not with a hopeful spirit and a generous dash of wishes. I'm going to have to add spreadsheet and calculator to my knitting bag. I'm going to work with Susan to rehash the pattern--add a repeat here, go up or down a needle size, actually fit it to my tension and my body size, and there's a good chance it might actually fit when I'm through. 

But like the critics and the old scouts, I think it'll take some of the magic out of the old game.