Year of Release: 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Bennett Miller
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
This film was reviewed by Dr. Barry Hummel of QDREF on February 21, 2012.
"Moneyball caused quite a stir when it opened regarding the depiction of spit tobacco use by Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt.
The reality is that the movie in no way glorifies the use of spit tobacco. In fact, one could argue that the filmmakers actually downplayed the use of spit tobacco by Major League Baseball players, the only privileged class of athletes allowed to display their personal drug addiction on the playing field.
For the sake of argument, I will assume that Billy Beane is a spit tobacco user in real life. For whatever reason, the director has chosen to portray that fact in the film. However, we really only see him spit into a cup a handful of times; we never see him actually dip into a pouch or tin and place the material in his mouth. We never see a bulging cheek. It is almost as if the director included it for historical accuracy but made the appearance of tobacco use as vague as possible. In another scene, we see Billy Beane grab a handful of sunflower seeds and spit into a cup, which makes the other scenes of spitting even vaguer. Plus, Brad Pitt's teeth do not reflect the changes one would expect in a long-term spit tobacco user.
In addition, there are numerous cameos by real Major League Baseball players; this is accomplished by using archival footage of real baseball games. Guess what? In none of those clips do we see a real baseball player dipping or spitting.
Given all of this, I am not even sure why you would bother to include the limited use of spit tobacco by Billy Beane. The director plays hard and fast with other facts in the movie, even changing the name of Billy Beane's right-hand man from Paul DePodesta to Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), and altering the timing of the Carlos Pena trade. In reality, the audience would not have stormed the box office to complain about the film's accuracy if Billy Beane's character never spit into a cup during the film.
I am actually more concerned about cigar use in the stadium hallway by one of the old time scouts. The movie takes place in 2002, seven years after California banned smoking in enclosed workplaces. Billy Beane mentions the smell, but why wouldn't he tell him to take it outside?
While I applaud that people have used this movie as a platform to discuss spit tobacco use among baseball players, I think the film took a bigger hit than it deserved. If nothing else, it helped to drive the conversation, leading to a change in the way Major League Baseball will handle spit tobacco. For more information, visit the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign."