Marketing the Moneyball Movie, part 3: The Moneyball Premiere

September 20, 2011


Full disclosure: I might be in the Moneyball movie.  Last July I answered the call, did my duty as a baseball fan and as an American and spent a long night as an extra at the Oakland Coliseum during the filming ofMoneyball.  So I’ve been excited for this film for a long time.  Not so excited, mind you, that I considered the possibility of it premiering in Oakland until less than a month ago, but excited nonetheless.

Then over the past month, the buzz began to build.  Previews, posters, mentions in articles and on podcasts; Moneyball was all around.  Then, between the Toronto International Film Festival and various press screenings and sneak previews, it seemed that everyone who writes about baseball had already seen the film and dissected it a good week before the official premiere at the Paramount Theatre.

Keith Law alone wrote a full review of the film and then discussed his review and a response it elicited from Michael Lewis on no fewer than three Baseball Today podcasts.  It felt as if the world had digestedMoneyball and moved along, stealing some of Oakland’s thunder in the process.

I should have known better.  It took all of two seconds to get caught up in the excitement of the premiere (albeit from the median of Broadway Avenue – the mob was not welcome on the Paramount side of the street).  With a steady stream of traffic passing both in front of and behind me, I hunkered down with my fellow gawkers and set myself to the task of documenting Oakland’s next great public moment.  This is what I saw.

The diehards were well represented.  A group of fans decked out in theirStAy t-shirts staked out a parking spot (beginning at 1 PM they said) directly across the street from the main entrance of the Paramount.  They hung a banner reading “Don’t take our A’s away” to remind the who’s who across the street that we can celebrate the team’s past but we need to secure its future where it belongs – in Oakland.  You can imagine the reception Lew Wolff received from this very vocal contingent.

The stars were out in force from cast members to team ownership and management to current and former players to local and national media.  Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Billy Beane, Ron Washington, Scott Hatteberg, David Justice, Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui, Cliff Pennington, Michael Lewis, Mychael Urban, Ray Ratto and many more were spotted and hailed by the throng in the median and on the other side of Broadway from the theater.  But the true star of the show for me was a man who went practically unnoticed amidst all the activity, Joe Posnanski.

I have been an avid reader of Posnanski’s for several years now and consider him to be one of the most insightful and gifted sportswriters working.  When I heard that he would be on site for the Moneyballpremiere, I immediately reprioritized who to be on the look out for.  Within a few minutes I spotted him (it was infinitely easier than I had anticipated).  Standing by himself and observing the bustle around him, he seemed like he would have had a second to greet a fan if not for the tight security in front of the theater and the adjoining mock stadium set up for the red carpet.  Given this barrier, a simple casual intrusion would not do.  I had to resort to slightly more creative means of saying hello to Posnanski.

The aforementioned diehards had brought along their flags, some beers and the familiar “Let’s go Oakland, clap-clap clap-clap-clap” chant.  For the purposes of articulating their support or disdain for various personalities on hand, the chant was modified.  Iterations included “Ron-nie Wa-ash” for Washington, “Lew Wolff su-ucks” for Wolff and “leather sho-orts” for a young woman in leather shorts.  I knew what I had to do.

I went to the lead diehard and enlisted his help.  I said, “you see that guy over there in the jacket?  His name is Joe Posnanski and he is an outstanding sportswriter.  Can you guys help me out with a Joe Posnanski chant?”  After confirming the correct pronunciation of Posnanski’s name, we launched into it.  “Joe Pos-nan-ski, clap-clap clap-clap-clap, Joe Pos-nan-ski, clap-clap clap-clap-clap.”  Posnanski looked our way, went a little red, then smiled and waved as we chanted on.  I turned to the lead diehard and said “I bet nobody ever recognizes that guy.  We just made his day.”  That may have been an exaggeration, but the diehards were in no position to argue; they had moved on to a new target for their chants…or maybe back to the girl in the leather shorts.

Exaggeration or not, I got what I came for (and my day was made in the process) and the rest was just icing.  It certainly didn’t hurt that I later got to observe from afar as Posnanski seemingly talked shop with Michael Lewis for awhile before heading in.

Once people began filing in, the focus of the crowd turned to spotting Brad Pitt.  Pitt’s whereabouts consumed the majority of conversation and drew a group of people that would fail to rise even to the modest standard of casual baseball fans.  But those who read Moneyball and those who read Entertainment Weekly alike were rewarded with a brief glimpse of Brad before he went into the theater through a side entrance.

When Pitt disappeared as quickly as he had arrived and it became clear he would not be seen again, the onlookers began to disperse.  After soaking in the atmosphere for a few minutes longer, I too took my leave, but not before granting Jack London George’s (new to me, too) request for a photo.

Thanks Moneyball, indeed.

Stray thoughts:

- Pretty sure this kid wins the prize for best hair at the premiere:

- We wish you were still in Oakland, too, Ronnie Wash:

- Godzilla!

- This was a big day for The Baseball Diaspora.  Our first on location coverage of a major media event, our first live tweets, our first Joe Posnanski sighting.  My thanks goes out to my colleagues Dan, for sharing the experience via phone from across the country and Louw, for joining me at the scene and making the live tweeting a reality.

- Louw and I also learned just how underdeveloped our paparazzi skills truly are.  “Paparazzi-in-training” a fellow Oakland resident dubbed us after my camera froze while trying to snap a picture of the elusive Pitt.  By way of example of our general incompetence, this is the best I could do as far as capturing Philip Seymour Hoffman and his double t-shirt look:

- Even after the press and personalities had cleared out, the rabble couldn’t be trusted to come across the street to see the interview area up close, so I settled for this shot:

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