Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Report: The Blind Side

Title: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
Author: Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Through an amazing and rare series of events, a young man from the ghettos of Memphis changes his destiny, avoiding an almost certain short life in a drug gang to become one of the most anticipated potential NFL players in years.

My thoughts:
In The Blind Side, Michael Lewis relates the story of a young kid, Michael Oher, who suffers from every conceivable social disadvantage in life except for the fact that his substantial physical gifts make him uniquely suited to play the second-most important position on the college/NFL football team: left tackle.

Lewis gives a good primer on how the left tackle position became such an important role on the team. Starting with the career ending leg injury suffered by Joe Theismann on national television in 1984 through the current day NFL where some left tackles get paid more that quarterbacks, Lewis walks us through some of the reasons why "In football, as in real life, the value we place on people changes with the rules of the game they play."

But this football primer is really just to set the background for the story of Oher. Faced with the huge hurdles of race, poverty and lack of education, Oher finds a way to leverage his one advantage: That he hit the genetic lottery.

It turns out that, through the chance of natural selection or a gift of god, Oher has the body of a prototypical NFL left tackle. If he can only overcome his lack of education, a murdered father, a drug addicted mother, and a society that seems not even to know he exists, he has a chance to earn millions playing a game for which he seems specifically designed.

Luckily he meets a family in Memphis. A rich, white, evangelical Christian family no less, that takes him in, sees to his education and only then allows him to set off on his journey to the NFL.

There are many setbacks along the way as you can imagine, car accidents, academic troubles, even an investigation by the NCAA. But the story, like all good stories, ends with a beginning -- in this case the beginning of Oher’s football career. The next chapter will be written this fall, Oher’s junior season at Ole Miss and it’s one I'm keen to follow when football season starts.

The description of Oher's journey from the ghetto to a college scholarship and the stories of those who helped him along the way are very compelling. Lewis' writing is solid, and tends to get in the way of the story only rarely.

Rating: Recommended.

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