meet Juno. Like you, Juno is a plucky, lovable underdog. Like you, Juno isn't
perfect. You made 527 outs last year; Juno's first 15 minutes are laid thick
with 527 obnoxious, made-up teen slang terms. And like you, Juno has been
generously rewarded. You won the National League MVP last year with a lower
on-base percentage than the Pirates' Jack Wilson; Juno was nominated for the
Best Picture Oscar. Not Adequately Charming Picture or Cute If
Indie-riffulously Precious Picture or The Wes Anderson Memorial Two-Thirds As
Good As Rushmore Picture. Best Picture.
David Wright, meet
Ratatouille. David, you led the NL win shares and runs created and were second
in VORP. Ratatouille was the best-reviewed film of the year according to the
review-compiling website Metacritic. Neither of you had the slightest chance at
winning the big awards because the Mets swooned to finish behind the Phillies
and because cartoons are condemned to the best animated feature ghetto.
No, the Baseball
Writers' Association of America went with Rollins, and the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences named Juno a candidate for the pinnacle of filmic art
in 2007. I'm rooting for it. I like it when archaic bodies of insular
backslappers make terrible decisions. They've been doing it forever. In 1934
the BBWAA chose Mickey Cochrane (two home runs, zero Triple Crowns) over Lou
Gehrig (49 homers, one Triple Crown). Seven years later the Academy selected
How Green Was My Valley (not Citizen Kane) over Citizen Kane (is Citizen
As the Academy is
preparing to make yet another culture-wounding mistake on Oscar night, BBWAA
members are gearing up for another season of head-scratching MVP choices. Why
get angry over these annual travesties? Embrace them. Love them. Learn to revel
in the injustice like some sort of bizarro Justitia. Since the BBWAA and the
Academy are large groups of purported experts in their fields and are
spectacularly wrong so often, I thought it might be instructive to point out
the similarities in their decision-making processes. Think about these as you
watch the Oscars.
Both groups do the same thing over and over because they've done the same thing
over and over. In the case of the Academy, it's rewarding epic, soulless
formula films (Titanic) and cloying, melodramatic claptrap that purports to
discuss some societal ill (Crash). In its defense, traditionalism might be the
only thing stopping Juno, since there isn't a long history of Best Picture
winners featuring the word homeskillet.
For the BBWAA,
it's knee-jerkily checking the box of the guy with the most RBIs ( George Bell
in 1987) and ignoring pitchers (Pudge over Pedro in 1999). Every year presents
both sets of voters with different challenges, yet both consistently apply the
same English Patient--shaped hammer.
This is the only way I can explain how lovable, gap-toothed scamp Ron Howard
won in 2001 with A Beautiful Mind and detestable,
Kenny-Lofton's-boom-box-destroying Albert Belle lost in 1995 to Mo Vaughn. The
Academy 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 any
chance you ever had at the High School Girl Hall of Fame.
It's become so clich�d to rail against hype that I believe the hype machine has
secretly 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 Oscar
races. Consider Ichiro over Jason Giambi in 2001. Ichiro: fresh, new, Japanese,
VORP of 50.9. Giambi: sweaty, plodding, less Japanese, VORP of 103.3. Giambi
created far more runs for his team as Ichiro did. He just did it fatter-ly and
less new-ly. Sure, Ichiro has more value in the field and on the bases and his
team won 116 games, but Giambi's A's finished second in the majors and he
out-OPS'd Ichiro 1.137 to .838. It couldn't have hurt that Ichiro was one of
the biggest stories in baseball that year. It also couldn't have hurt the
fluffy Shakespeare in Love that producer Harvey Weinstein blanketed Hollywood
with a hype-infused smog in 1998, assuring both its victory and Joseph Fiennes
a long and storied acting career.
Pulp Fiction or Forrest Gump? One of them is all out of order and makes my
brain feel funny. The other one makes me feel good about myself, and Tom Hanks
is in it. (Plus, he's playing a mentally challenged guy!) A tip for Academy
members: If Tom Hanks is in it, it's safe to vote for it. The Tom Hankses of
baseball are the gritty, heart-and-soul veteran leaders of good teams—see Terry
Pendleton in 1991 and Kirk Gibson in '88. They're safe, uncontroversial and
completely above reproach until their hubris has them believing that they can
single-handedly make The Terminal watchable.
5. Mass appeal.
When in doubt, the BBWAA and the Academy ask themselves, What would the average
person say? Let's ask Susie Fakeperson, a lady who hates movies and baseball
because 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 Auntie
Millicent said it was 'delightful and sexy in a nonthreatening way.'?"
Susie goes on to say, "I choose Andre Dawson for MVP in 1987 because I
don't care that his OBP was exactly league average; look at those power