What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of the Code Classics Blog-A-Thon. This is an event being co-hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.
Their site features an annual celebration of the Motion Picture Production Code and the twenty years (1934-1954) when Joseph I. Breen’s leadership of the Production Code Administration (PCA) created “clean” films for everyone.
July is their #CleanMovieMonth and I am proud to have been allowed to participate. As such, I’m contributing this “Code Era” film based off classic literature. Of course it contains a ripping good sports analogy as well.
Since this is all about clean entertainment, I promise to behave myself…
You can see all the contributors to this blog-a-thon here:
“The Three Muskeeters” opens with an inexperienced Gascon youth named d’Artagnan (played by Gene Kelly), on his way to Paris to join the elite King’s Musketeers. Along the way, he encounters a mysterious lady at a roadside inn. He ends up in a fight with one of her escorts, during which d’Artagnan is knocked out cold. Unfortunately, his letter of introduction from his father to the commander of the Musketeers de Treville (played by Reginald Owen), is burned.
Despite this, d’Artagnan presents himself to de Treville, who recognizes d’Artagnan’s description of one of his assailants and accepts him anyway by telling him “a man is sometimes known by the enemies he makes.” Now that he’s a cadet, d’Artagnan lays eyes on the man who cold-cocked him. But in his confronting of the man, he ticks off three of the most skillful Musketeers: Athos (played by Van Heflin), Porthos (played by Gig Young) and Aramis (played Robert Coote). All three challenge d’Artagnan to a duel.
However, when the three arrive at the appointed place, they discover they are all there to fight the same man. They are impressed and amused by d’Artagnan’s audacity. But before the master swordsmen are amused by the newcomer’s audacity, the First Minister of France and King Louis XIII’s trusted advisor Cardinal Richelieu’s (played by Vincent Price) guards arrive an attempt to arrest the Musketeers. Taking umbrage at the fact Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are outnumbered, d’Artagnan comes to their aid. D’Artagnan puts his prowess with the sword on display, and he is welcomed into the ranks of the Musketeers.
Commensurate with his new social status, d’Artagnan encounters and subsequently falls in love with Constance Bonacieux (played by June Allyson). A confidante of Queen Anne (played by Angela Lansbury), Constance knows a lot of the royal dirt, which can only mean at this point d’Artagnan has no idea what he’s about to be involved in. For starters, the queen had been given a matched set of twelve diamond studs by her husband King Louis XIII (played by Frank Morgan). But in what has to be one of the great moments in the history of stupidity, she gives them to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham (played by John Sutton).
So, not only is she stepping out on her husband, she is doing it with an Englishman…the French and the English being sworn enemies at this point. Oh, by the way, she’s not just canoodling with just any Englishman…The Duke also happens to be the Prime Minister.
The problems really start when the queen’s affair is no longer secret. Cardinal Richelieu becomes aware of her indiscretion and sees it as a way to persuade the King to go to war with Britain. Richelieu sets his plan in action by arranging a ball and suggesting to to Louis XIII that he have the Queen wear the diamonds.
D’Artagnan and the three Muskeeters volunteer to retrieve the jewels from England, but along the way they are ambushed by Richelieu’s men. Eventually, only d’Artagnan and his servant Planchet (played by Keenan Wynn) are left to reach the Duke. Being one step ahead of them, Richelieu had already sent the beautiful Milady Countess de Winter (played by Lana Turner) to steal two of the studs from the Duke. She accomplishes her task, but the Duke’s jeweler is able to make replacements quickly. This allowed d’Artagnan to get back to France just in time to save the Queen from disgrace.
Unfortunately, d’Artagnan resourcefulness draws Richelieu’s eye. As a result, the Cardinal has Constance abducted in an attempt to enlist d”Artagnan in his service. Richelieu also assigns de Winter to work her wiles on him as well. Meanwhile, d’Artagnan tries to learn held from de Winter where Constance is being held. But just about the time she is winning him over, Athos blows the whistle when he discovers the “Countess” de Winter is actually his treacherous wife
In another great moment of stupidity, d’Artagnan doesn’t believe him. There’s a term for the hold de Winter has on d’Artagnan, but since this event is about “clean” entertainment, I’ll just leave you to figure it out. D’Artagnan doesn’t break out of his “lust-haze” for de Winter until he sees the proof of her true identity; a brand on her shoulder…at the time, the mark of a common criminal, and it is exactly where Athos said it was.
As expected, war finally breaks out between Britain and France. French Queen Anne succeeds in freeing Constance from Richelieu and sends her to the Duke of Buckingham in England for safety. But as the French are wont to do, they quickly find themselves on the losing end of the war. When the war goes against him, Richelieu gives de Winter a carte blanche and sends her on a mission to assassinate the Duke. The Musketeers get wind of the plot and send Planchet to warn the Duke.
Meanwhile, Athos confronts de Winter and recovers the carte blanche as proof of Richelieu’s treachery. As a result, de Winter is imprisoned by the Duke, who for some inexplicable reason leaves Constance as her guard. In no time, de Winter outfoxes her and murders both Constance and the Duke. Athos and d’Artagnan arrive too late to save them; this now shifts their focus to vengeance against de Winter.
As such, they return to France intent on finding and killing de Winter. They lose track of her and end up back in Paris where Captain de Treville informs them de Winter is under Richelieu’s protection. This means continuing their vendetta likely means their own deaths or a life as a fugitive from France. Despite this, they decide to continue after Aramis recalls a conversation between de Winter and Richelieu concerning his granting her a title and an estate near Lille.
Athos and d’Artagnan discover the estate she has been given is Athos’ ancestral home; this is where they capture de Winter. She begs for mercy but receives none, despite the fact Athos still loves her even in the face of the crimes she has committed. De Winter resolves herself to fate walks with dignity to her execution. Subsequently, The Musketeers are captured by Richelieu’s men and returned to the Royal Court for judgment.
As Richelieu is about to have them sentenced to death by King Louis XIII, d’Artagnan produces the carte blanche given to de Winter which established Rrichelieu’s role in the all which has transpired. Essentially, this forced Richelieu to give the Musketeers and d’Artagnan what they wanted. As such, Richelieu is compelled to recommend to King Louis XIII that he grant Aramis’s wish to enter a monastery, Porthos’ desire for an introduction to a rich widow, Athos’ restoration of his title and lands, d’Artagnan be given a commission as a Musketeer.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Dubsism…where you can learn more by accident than in other places by design. In this case, today’s hidden sports analogy uses 1948’s “The Three Musketeers” to show the 2011 Brad Pitt baseball flick “Moneyball” is a load of crap large enough to fertilize Mars. If you aren’t familiar, “Moneyball” is a dramatization of the Michael Lewis’s 2003 non-fiction book of the same name. The plot of centers on the Oakland Athletics baseball team, the 2002 season, and their general manager Billy Beane’s (played by Brad Pitt in the movie) attempts to assemble a competitive team.
The A’s were pretty damn good in 2001; they made the play-offs but fell to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series; the problem was the A’s were facing the impending loss to free-agency of three core players. It was common knowledge the A’s simply didn’t have the coin to compete with the “big spenders” in baseball. In terms of numbers, here’s what Billy Beane had to replace.
Obviously, he was not going compete with the dump trucks full of money needed to sign big-name players to long term contracts. With the impending departure of some heavy-duty talent, the legend of “Moneyball” dawns with Beane’s being credited with inventing of what today is called “analytics.” In other words, it takes the appreciation of simple statistics. morphs them into something they were never intended to be, and twists them to use an indicator of what “real” baseball talent is.
While there’s a lot of stuff in “Moneyball” which is not pure, uncut mythology…such as Billy Beane’s challenges in rebuilding the Oakland A’s after the aforementioned free-agency exodus. Another hard dose of truth came in the scene which most baseball fans universally regard as the best in the movie. This is when Beane tells declining former all-star (and ex-Mr. Halle Berry) David Justice that the New York Yankees actually agreed to pay half of Justice’s $7 million salary just so the A’s would take him off their roster.
The problem is that “Moneyball” wants the viewer to believe Billy Beane made the Oakland A’s perennial play-off contenders by using analytics to determine things like Scott Hatteberg should be a 1st baseman rather than a catcher. You can buy that if you want, but doing ignores the same glaring fact “Moneyball” does. The Oakland A’s had their own version of “The Three Musketeers.” They were named Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder.
If you weren’t following baseball in the early 2000s, these guys were three of the best young pitchers in baseball. It doesn’t matter when, but if you’ve EVER followed baseball…you know you can crunch all the numbers you want; if you can pitch the ball and catch the ball better than the other guys, you’re going to win a lot of games. Sure, you can choose to believe that Scott Hatteberg and a washed-up Dave Justice made the A’s contenders. After all, for now, it’s still a free country…you still have a constitutionally-defended right to be wrong.
But anybody being honest knows it was Zito, Hudson, and Mulder that made the A’s matter. To see that, all you have to do is look at what “The Three Musketeers” did for the Oakland A’s during the “Moneyball” era beginning in 2001. Note this also helps to show the whole point of “Moneyball;” the A’s didn’t have any money. Also keep in mind the three games to two loss to the New York Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series was the genesis of the whole concept of “Moneyball.”
Oakland ranked 4th out 14 in the American League in total runs scored – 864
Oakland ranked 8th out 14 in the American League in total runs scored – 800
Oakland ranked 9th out 14 in the American League in total runs scored – 768
Oakland ranked 9th out 14 in the American League in total runs scored – 793
Oakland ranked 6th out 14 in the American League in total runs scored – 772
Oakland ranked 9th out 14 in the American League in total runs scored – 793
Oakland ranked 9th out 14 in the American League in total runs scored – 771
After 2007, the Oakland A’s missed the play-off for five straight seasons, and as of this writing have yet to win another play-off series. That sounds a lot more like “slightly better than mediocrity” than “actual success”. Yet, the myth of “Moneyball” continues.
If I were a fan of the Oakland A’s (I’m not, I have plenty of suffering of my own, thank you…), 2003 would have been the end for me. This was more than likely their best shot to bring home a championship, yet the nonsense that is “Moneyball” didn’t allow for them to put a “real” bat at first base, instead they let that “power position” to waste with the “on-average” 13 home run/65 runs batted in Scott Hatteberg. You can’t tell me that replacing Hatteberg with another 30+ HR, 90+ RBI wouldn’t have taken that team out of the bottom half of the American League in scoring. In other words, they let arguably the best the season they were going to get from “The Three Musketeers” go to waste.
Since the “Moneyball” theory requires raising new talent than paying established free-agents, that means the Oakland A’s had a never-ending stream of “d’Artagnan wanna-be” types, especially in the pitching ranks. Hardcore baseball fans might recognize names like Aaron Harang, John Halama, Rich Harden, Mark Redman, et al, ad nauseum…along with a ton of bullpen arms. Out of all those guys among the starting pitchers, I thought there were two who stood out.
Cory Lidle had his career cut short by a plane crash, which makes the most successful “d’Artagnan wanna-be” leftie Ted Lilly. Naturally, the minute Lilly became a solid guy in the rotation, in 2004 the Toronto Blue Jays gave him $1.9 million per year, a significant jump from the $335,000 the A’s were paying him.
All tolled, of all the “d’Artagnan wanna-bes,” Lilly is the one with the best career numbers. Could he have been the “Fourth Musketeer?” You be the judge.
In any event, the most-pointed statement one can make about “Moneyball” is noticing how much talent it has lost. It would be enough to stop with the four pitchers we’ve already mentioned, but that doesn’t mention so many more starters or bullpen guys, or the number of valuable position players. It also doesn’t address the fact the A’s haven’t won a play-off series in almost fifteen years. The French had their Musketeers, and haven’t won a war in close to a half-millenium. The A’s had their “musketeers” and won nothing with them.
The Moral of the Story:
Money can buy talent, but it can’t recognize it, nor can it replace it. To win, you need a balance of both.
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