In Search of Greatness review – is ‘moneyball’ killing sporting genius? | Film

This rather slight documentary on talent and genius in sport is chatty and anecdotal, but could perhaps have been boiled down further to a crisp hour-long documentary for television. There is, however, something worthwhile here, as film-maker Gabe Polsky unfashionably hits back against the “moneyball” theory of sports and its obsession with stats, performance levels and athletic targets. It takes as its cue a strange institution: the NFL Scouting Combine, a weirdly Soviet-style annual showcase in which specially chosen college football players are invited to perform various punishing tests of running and bench-pressing while boffins mull over the resulting numbers and decide on a draft pick and salary.

But is all that – and the competitive fanaticism in schools – taking the joy and artistry out of sport, as well crushing the seed of genius? Sports journalist David Epstein says we are in danger of “making something important because it is measurable, not measuring it because it’s important”. Sporting heroes including football’s Pelé, ice hockey’s Wayne Gretzky and the NFL’s Jerry Rice smilingly tell the same story: they worked hard and practised incessantly, but they were also encouraged to cultivate their intuitive inspirational spark and were not put through the formally rigid programme that today’s athletes must endure.

Educationalist Sir Ken Robinson is also interviewed and, as ever, he is the voice of sweet reason. To be fair, the stat fiends and the moneyballers could shrug and say they are doing this because it gets results. I should have liked to see an interview with Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, the non-fiction classic which popularised the whole idea. It’s food for thought, though.

Source: The Guardian

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