A Different Kind of Cuban MIssile

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

Sportscenter stereotypes Mark Cuban as a 21st Century NBA Greek chorus, reacting visibly to every big moment, exploding at every real and imagined slight, operatically baiting referees and the league office, generally competing grabshot for grabshot with his three-headed counterpart in Sacramento, the Maloofs. We also know he's wildly rich, as the result of one of those cyber-related streaks of genius that is easier just to celebrate than to understand. Mark Cuban chats with Jim Rome, he carries an aura, he's something of a god to young people with big dreams of money and accomplishment.

Last night I saw the side of Mark Cuban that trivializes all of that. Filmmaker Alex Gibney's documentary look at the rapacious rise and spectacular fall of Enron, THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, is a compelling look at the darkest corner of market economics, and a forceful substantiation of Mark Cuban's commitment to issue-oriented films that make a difference.

Particularly for Californians, the experience of reliving through recorded telephone conversations the willful, cackling rape of our state's energy consumers and political landscape by greasy-fingered power traders in the Enron-created "energy crisis" of 2000-2001 is....devastating. Tens of billions of dollars stolen from consumers, careers and reputations on various levels manipulated and destroyed by the unseen hand of a corporation, supported by an ad hoc consortium of the centralmost institutions in the American financial infrastructure, run amuck. And our likeliest satisfaction in the breech is to read the headlines of Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow copping pleas. And Kenny Boy.

And that's the point, the Kenny Boy thing. You don't expect a billionaire perched in Dallas, a super-beneficiary of rich man's tax cuts, to put his foot forward this way. You expect the opposite. You might not have guessed this about Cuban from those Sportscenter highlight shots either. But once you've seen THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM, you'll begin to appreciate those constant Cuban sightings in a new and different way. He's the goods.