Brian Micklethwait on his Culture Blog said, "Critics who explain why TV shows are so good are the most dangerous kind, because they stop you ever enjoying it again."
My baseball audience can imagine the question this way:
Critics who explain why baseball teams are so good are the most dangerous kind, because they stop you ever enjoying baseball again.
In either case, I think this is wrong.
Judging from the hostile reaction to Moneyball, it's a common fear: that if you explain the mechanics of an art form, the enjoyment you get from it will cease. But this fear is based on a faulty understanding about how the brain stores knowledge.
The brain has two different systems of data storage:
declarative memory, a conscious form of memory where facts are stored, and
nondeclarative memory, a subconscious form of memory for pattern recognition, motor skills and habits.
I have proposed that our judgments of any kind of art, whether it's a TV show or a baseball game, come only from the subconscious system.
Decisions arising from the subconscious system are instant and automatic. Our conscious decisions are slow, rational and deliberate. But we don't need to deliberate very hard to decide whether we like a TV show or not. It just happens. Our judgments about art match the characteristics of the subconscious system better.
As you observe a TV show, or a baseball game, your subconscious system notices all kinds of patterns. The patterns you've seen many times, you learn to ignore. Those are clichés. If you see something unusual, though, you need to create a new memory for this new pattern. We like it when that happens.
On the other hand, when a critic explains a pattern to you, a different kind of memory is created. The critic is not giving you an actual pattern, but a fact about a pattern. An actual pattern would be a nondeclarative memory, stored in your subconscious. But the fact is a declarative memory. It's conscious.
My hypothesis claims that you don't use your conscious memories when you make your judgments, only your subconscious ones. If I'm right, knowing a fact about the artwork should not have any bearing on whether you like an artwork or not.
I know an awful lot of people who understand the facts about baseball inside and out. They know all the statistical probabilities for any given situation. But knowing these facts does not reduce their enjoyment of the game. That's because the facts reside in a brain subsystem separate from the source of their enjoyment.
Facts are facts and patterns are patterns and never the twain shall meet.