Why Basketball Writers Love Pitch Perfect

Image from Flickr by Genia Baida

Image from Flickr by Genia Baida

Communities need texts. These can be explicit within the identity of said community — the Bible for Christians, the Torah for Jews, etc. — or they can be tacitly accepted. The group of kids I played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with in middle school, for example, had as their text the complete works of Monty Python, with an emphasis on Monty Python and The Holy Grail. I likely watched that movie something like 150 times between the ages of 11 and 13.

But what’s weird is that a good chunk of basketball Twitter and the basketball blogosphere have adopted the 2012 Anna Kendrick vehicle and aca-comedy Pitch Perfect as its text.

While we were in Las Vegas for Summer League, my fellow HP-er Robby Kalland explained his attachment to it by saying that when he moved into his apartment, he had no cable but got HBO for some reason, and it was a month where they were unceasingly re-running Pitch Perfect. He kept avoiding it, but when he gave in and watched it, he was smitten, watching it — by his count — eight times that month. At the time, I had not seen it, and was roundly upbraided for this fact. When I announced last night that I was watching it, the reaction was overwhelming.

I’m not here to render judgment on the movie, although I will say that Rebel Wilson was awesome as Fat Amy (née Fat Patricia) and that I was less than impressed with the Dollar Store version of Dane Cook (Skylar Astin — Seriously? That’s a name?) and Jack Black (Adam DeVine) the film had on offer. What I found interesting is that I began to see why the basketball writing world has such an infatuation with the film.

As the movie begins, the Treblemakers are the champs of college a cappella — reliably entertaining but not innovative, simply possessed of the best talent and a reasonable understanding of what to do with it. They benefit from legacy, earning the win in the riff-off because of some favorable refereeing.

The Bellas rely equally on their legacy, but it’s grown stale. They’ve leaned on getting outwardly attractive women without necessarily considering their singing and then trotted out the same old stuff that worked for them in the early 2000s. Their leader, Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp), is so stuck in her ways that she can’t even see what’s right in front of her when Beca Mitchell (Kendrick) joins the group.

Beca is reluctant at first, with her sights initially set on getting to Los Angeles to break into the music business, but eventually she becomes invested in the group and pushes back against Aubrey by advancing radical musical ideas like mashing together songs and harnessing the energy of the new members, many of whom do not conform to traditional beauty standards.

There are some twists and turns along the way, but you know where this is headed: eventually Beca’s way wins out as the Bellas triumph at the national finals thanks to Beca’s mashed up arrangement.

It is, in essence, a movie about analytics winning a championship. The Bellas aren’t chosen for their traditional skills but instead based on combing through the lower rungs looking for value. Beca is corner 3-pointers and finishing at the rim to Aubrey’s long midrange jumpers.

But there are plenty of movies about rebelling against tradition. Why Pitch Perfect as the banner carrier for basketball bloggers? It might be Aubrey’s blind insistence that her way will still work, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s not just orthodoxy for orthodoxy’s sake, but rather out of a stubborn belief that whatever we’ve been doing all along is better than trying something new.

Maybe it’s also because, you know, ANNA KENDRICK. It’s basically the Daryl Morey story, except with Anna Kendrick. And Fat Amy.


Steve McPherson

Steve McPherson is an editor for Hardwood Paroxysm and his writing has appeared at Grantland, Rolling Stone, A Wolf Among Wolves, The Cauldron, TrueHoop, Complex, Narratively, Polygon and elsewhere. His Twitter handle is @steventurous.