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Dumb and Dumber

Feb. 25, 2008
Feb. 25, 2008

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Feb. 25, 2008

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Dumb and Dumber

In voting for Best Picture or MVP, awards experts often make the same mistakes

By Junior

JIMMY ROLLINS,meet Juno. Like you, Juno is a plucky, lovable underdog. Like you, Juno isn'tperfect. You made 527 outs last year; Juno's first 15 minutes are laid thickwith 527 obnoxious, made-up teen slang terms. And like you, Juno has beengenerously rewarded. You won the National League MVP last year with a loweron-base percentage than the Pirates' Jack Wilson; Juno was nominated for theBest Picture Oscar. Not Adequately Charming Picture or Cute IfIndie-riffulously Precious Picture or The Wes Anderson Memorial Two-Thirds AsGood As Rushmore Picture. Best Picture.

This is an article from the Feb. 25, 2008 issue

David Wright, meetRatatouille. David, you led the NL win shares and runs created and were secondin VORP. Ratatouille was the best-reviewed film of the year according to thereview-compiling website Metacritic. Neither of you had the slightest chance atwinning the big awards because the Mets swooned to finish behind the Philliesand because cartoons are condemned to the best animated feature ghetto.

No, the BaseballWriters' Association of America went with Rollins, and the Academy of MotionPicture Arts and Sciences named Juno a candidate for the pinnacle of filmic artin 2007. I'm rooting for it. I like it when archaic bodies of insularbackslappers make terrible decisions. They've been doing it forever. In 1934the BBWAA chose Mickey Cochrane (two home runs, zero Triple Crowns) over LouGehrig (49 homers, one Triple Crown). Seven years later the Academy selectedHow Green Was My Valley (not Citizen Kane) over Citizen Kane (is CitizenKane).

As the Academy ispreparing to make yet another culture-wounding mistake on Oscar night, BBWAAmembers are gearing up for another season of head-scratching MVP choices. Whyget angry over these annual travesties? Embrace them. Love them. Learn to revelin the injustice like some sort of bizarro Justitia. Since the BBWAA and theAcademy are large groups of purported experts in their fields and arespectacularly wrong so often, I thought it might be instructive to point outthe similarities in their decision-making processes. Think about these as youwatch the Oscars.

1.Traditionalism.
Both groups do the same thing over and over because they've done the same thingover and over. In the case of the Academy, it's rewarding epic, soullessformula films (Titanic) and cloying, melodramatic claptrap that purports todiscuss some societal ill (Crash). In its defense, traditionalism might be theonly thing stopping Juno, since there isn't a long history of Best Picturewinners featuring the word homeskillet.

For the BBWAA,it's knee-jerkily checking the box of the guy with the most RBIs (George Bellin 1987) and ignoring pitchers (Pudge over Pedro in 1999). Every year presentsboth sets of voters with different challenges, yet both consistently apply thesame English Patient--shaped hammer.

2. Personalpopularity.
This is the only way I can explain how lovable, gap-toothed scamp Ron Howardwon in 2001 with A Beautiful Mind and detestable,Kenny-Lofton's-boom-box-destroying Albert Belle lost in 1995 to Mo Vaughn. TheAcademy and the BBWAA are as needy, insecure and catty as high school girls.Charm them, and they will cluster around. Spurn them, and you'll forfeit anychance you ever had at the High School Girl Hall of Fame.

3. Hype.
It's become so clichéd to rail against hype that I believe the hype machine hassecretly supported a guerrilla antihype movement to spark a prohype backlash.Confused? They want you to be. Hype is still a factor in the MVP and the Oscarraces. Consider Ichiro over Jason Giambi in 2001. Ichiro: fresh, new, Japanese,VORP of 50.9. Giambi: sweaty, plodding, less Japanese, VORP of 103.3. Giambicreated far more runs for his team as Ichiro did. He just did it fatter-ly andless new-ly. Sure, Ichiro has more value in the field and on the bases and histeam won 116 games, but Giambi's A's finished second in the majors and heout-OPS'd Ichiro 1.137 to .838. It couldn't have hurt that Ichiro was one ofthe biggest stories in baseball that year. It also couldn't have hurt thefluffy Shakespeare in Love that producer Harvey Weinstein blanketed Hollywoodwith a hype-infused smog in 1998, assuring both its victory and Joseph Fiennesa long and storied acting career.

4. Riskaversion.
Pulp Fiction or Forrest Gump? One of them is all out of order and makes mybrain feel funny. The other one makes me feel good about myself, and Tom Hanksis in it. (Plus, he's playing a mentally challenged guy!) A tip for Academymembers: If Tom Hanks is in it, it's safe to vote for it. The Tom Hankses ofbaseball are the gritty, heart-and-soul veteran leaders of good teams—see TerryPendleton in 1991 and Kirk Gibson in '88. They're safe, uncontroversial andcompletely above reproach until their hubris has them believing that they cansingle-handedly make The Terminal watchable.

5. Mass appeal.
When in doubt, the BBWAA and the Academy ask themselves, What would the averageperson say? Let's ask Susie Fakeperson, a lady who hates movies and baseballbecause an old boyfriend got fresh with her during Field of Dreams. Susie says,"I don't know, I'll pick Chicago for Best Picture because my AuntieMillicent said it was 'delightful and sexy in a nonthreatening way.'?"Susie goes on to say, "I choose Andre Dawson for MVP in 1987 because Idon't care that his OBP was exactly league average; look at those powernumbers!"

I think I'veincontrovertibly established that whatever we're doing to choose MVPs and BestPicture winners, it's not working. My solution? The establishment of a NationalCouncil on Movies and Baseball, similar to the Supreme Court in that thePresident will appoint its nine members but different in that people will careabout it. Only the brightest, baseball-savviest film experts need apply. TheNCMB will pore over spreadsheets of sabermetric data, watch every frame of theyear's 32 depressing Serbian genocide films, agonize for weeks and months overtheir decisions. And when their selections are revealed, we will tar andfeather them, for they will have chosen Juno, David Eckstein and Juan Pierre.That's just how these things go.

Junior writes forthe blog firejoemorgan.com.

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"Whatever we're doing to choose our winners, IT'SNOT WORKING."
PHOTOPHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN UELAND