Masonry & Moneyball: Lessons From an Unfair Game for an Unfair World.
Moneyball refers both to the 2011 film and the 2003 book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.” It is one of this author’s favourite films and books. It is also a film and book from which Freemasonry can derive many lessons.
The film and book examine how a baseball team (the Oakland Athletics) uses an analytical and evidence-based approach to overcome budgetary limitations.
What lessons can Freemasonry (or Freemasons) learn from the examination of a baseball team’s approach to overcoming budgetary limitations?
Surprisingly: a lot!
On its surface, Moneyball examines baseball and budgets.
On a deeper level, Moneyball examines: the importance of adopting new approaches; the value of questioning conventional wisdom; the ways in which data can be leveraged to surmount unfair challenges; and the importance of developing and maintaining a clear vision.
Adapt or Die
Moneyball makes one lesson abundantly clear.
“Adapt or Die”
Freemasonry itself is the result of adaptation: the change of allowing non-operative (or speculative) men into Masonic Lodges, thereby adapting Masonry into Freemasonry.
To adapt is to do more than “change.” To adapt is to embrace change that results in a stronger and more resilient organisation, well-suited to dealing with both present and future challenges.
Consider the Moneyball dialogue below:
- Billy Beane: “You guys are just talking, talking, lalalalala, like this is business as usual. It’s not…”
- Scout: “We’re trying to solve the problem here Billy”
- Billy Beane: “Not like this you’re not. You’re not even looking at the problem…the problem we are trying to solve is there are rich teams, there are poor teams, then there’s 50 feet of crap, then there’s us. It’s an unfair game…and you guys are sitting around talking the same old good body nonsense like we’re selling jeans…we got to think differently. We are the last dog at the bowl, you see what happens to the runt of the litter. it dies…”
The above dialogue clearly identifies the need to adapt, to “think differently.” It also:
- questions conventional wisdom, the “same old nonsense,”
- defines the problem “it’s an unfair game,” and
- emphasises the consequences of failure “it dies!”
It’s Not An Unfair Game, It’s an Unfair World
Freemasonry faces many unfair challenges.
The unfair challenge of competing to get and maintain the attention of men in a world of 24/7 entertainment.
The unfair challenge of maintaining attendance while membership works longer-hours, takes multiple jobs, or moves to new locations, all to support themselves and their families.
The unfair challenge of maintaining a Lodge’s financial stability in the face of declining membership and, subsequently, declining dues revenue.
It’s not an unfair game, it’s an unfair world.
However, unfair challenges are not insurmountable challenges.
By adopting new approaches, questioning conventional wisdom, leveraging data, and developing a consistent vision, even unfair challenges can be surmounted!
Adopting New Approaches
Adopting new approaches is hard in many facets of life, including Freemasonry. It is worth asking the question “why?”
Moneyball provides an answer (ironically, by asking another question).
Moneyball asks: “how can you not be romantic about baseball?”
If you love baseball, then the answer is obvious: “you can’t.”
The same is true of Freemasonry.
For those who love Freemasonry (like this author), it is impossible not to be romantic about Freemasonry.
After hundreds, if not thousands, of Lodge Meetings, degrees, lectures, road-trips, dinners, visitations, and refreshments, how could one not be romantic about Freemasonry? How could one not be romantic about what Freemasonry means to the world? How could one not be romantic about what Freemasonry means to its membership?
Again, from Moneyball: “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball…[but it] doesn’t mean anything.”
Romanticism “doesn’t mean anything” because romanticism limits one’s ability to adopt new approaches to entrenched challenges.
Being romantic about Freemasonry doesn’t mean being romantic about the conventional wisdom within Freemasonry, or failing to seek out and adopt new approaches to the (unfair) challenges it is facing.
It is possible to be romantic about Freemasonry while also understanding that (far too often) Freemasonry fails to adequately adapt to the unfair challenges it is facing.
In Moneyball, the solution to the unfair challenge of budgetary limitation is found through embracing data-driven, statistical analysis.
In Freemasonry, the solutions to the unfair challenges noted above are not as rooted within economics (though economics are not irrelevant) but remain rooted within the underlying idea of adopting new approaches.
The challenges Freemasonry faces are unfair; they are growing; but they are surmountable. Square & Compass Promotions is surmounting them. Lodges are surmounting them. Masonic Buildings/Temples are surmounting them.
Square & Compass Promotions is surmounting them by questioning that oft-repeated piece of conventional wisdom: “family and work come first” (in many jurisdictions “deity, family, and work…”) This conventional wisdom goes unquestioned: why?
By removing the artificial distinction(s) between family, work, and Freemasonry (with the creation of Square & Compass Promotions), this author is a very small part of surmounting these challenges on a local level!
Border Cities Lodge №554 in Windsor, Ontario is surmounting them by leveraging the talents and abilities of its membership to encourage attendance. Border Cities Lodge №554 set for itself a clear and consistent vision of growth, and is maintaining that vision by holding special events, breakfasts, and regular brainstorming sessions.
In 2021, the conventional wisdom was that Border Cities Lodge №554 would not survive post-pandemic. In 2023, Border Cities Lodge №554 held a successful Official Visit and is welcoming several new affiliate members.
The Windsor Masonic Temple is surmounting them by adopting new approaches to fund-raising-by engaging in numerous grant applications-and by leveraging social media. The Windsor Masonic Temple is maintaining a vision of being, for the people of Windsor and Essex, a place of friendship, brotherhood, and community “For the Next 100 Years.”
In Moneyball, challenges are surmounted by finding efficiencies within the budget-by making the most out of limited resources to make every dollar count-and in some cases count for far more than its worth.
Freemasonry can find efficiencies by leveraging our budgets. For example, using the Windsor Masonic Temple’s “For the Next 100 Years” project, every dollar invested by Freemasons resulted in a $12 return (so far) from Municipal and Federal grants. This is an example of leveraging Masonic budgets-making every dollar count.
We have discussed how Freemasons can apply for grants both on our social media channels and medium.
More work needs to be done, especially whereas the next question needs to be asked: how well are we (within Freemasonry) leveraging an analytics and data-based approached. How often do we gather membership data?
Does the average lodge, for example, keep track of its average membership age? What about the average income level of its membership? What about, more importantly, the percentage of dues as a portion of that income level? What about the number of hours spent, per week, on Masonic activities by members? What about the number of hours spent visiting one’s mother-lodge versus visitation?
How is your Masonic Lodge surmounting its unfair challenges? In what ways have you or your Lodge either embraced or questioned conventional wisdom, adopted new strategies, or developed and maintained a consistent vision? Let us know!
Also, take the time to answer watch the attached clip and answer our poll: Can Freemasonry Learn From “Moneyball?”
All opinions expressed are those of Square & Compass Promotions and the guest(s), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Windsor Masonic Temple and/or any other group.