The Blind Side. Finished 10-6-15, rating 4.25/5, sports, 320 pages, pub. 2006
Unabridged audio read by Stephen Hoye. 11 hours, 47 minutes.
When we first meet Michael Oher is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or how to read or write. He takes up football, and school, after a rich, white, Evangelical family plucks him from the streets. Then two great forces alter Oher: the family’s love and the evolution of professional football itself into a game in which the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist becomes the priceless package of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability: his blind side. from Goodreads
I loved this book, even the very footbally parts. Many people have seen the movie that won a Best Actress Award for Sandra Bullock and are familiar with the rags to riches story of NFL player Michael Oher. His upbringing was heartbreaking, but good fortune finally showed him some love by getting him off the rough Memphis streets and into a private Christian school in his teens and having the privileged Tuohy family adopt him as one of their own. His transformation was inspiring and proved so many things about race and wealth and the importance of a loving family.
The Tuohy’s seemed too good to be true in this book (and that fact that the author and Sean Tuohy are old friends should be taken into account). What they did was the epitome of charity, not just giving money, but charity of the heart. They saw Michael had a need, housing and someone to look after him, and they stepped in, arms wide open. When this large black man joined their Southern white Christian Republican family others may have had reservations, but the Tuohy’s paid no attention. The miracles they were able to make happen for Michael showed great love.
At its heart it is a football book and alternating with Michael’s story is the history of the left offensive tackle position, the very one that Michael would be called to play because of his size and athletic ability. It all started in the 1980’s with Lawrence Taylor and Lewis managed to make even these somewhat dry passages come alive with humor. It deftly explains why the position became so important and allowed Michael the privilege of becoming so sought after, essentially every college in the country making visits and calls to get him to their campus.
I did have my reservations about the way Michael was portrayed. So many stories about his lack of understanding of basic things, while highlighting the economic divide also repeatedly painted him in an unflattering light. He is still playing in the NFL and has recently talked about this in an interview.
“People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not … that has nothing to do with football. It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”
As much as Michael may not like it, the glaring light shone on privilege, be it the privilege of race or money, is an important one. The inner city public schools were, at best, negligent and the city not much better. The story of Michael Oher shows one of the few that made it, his last NFL contract paying him $7M over two years. And the story of the Tuohys show that with a charitable heart the world can change, one kid at a time.
This is a football book, but Michael’s story will appeal to anyone. If you don’t like football, you can just skip those parts :)