The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
The Blind Side (the book, not the movie) is a football story that really isn’t about football. Sort of, anyway. Some have said this is more of a human interest story than a book about football. I disagree. This account of the rise of Michael Oher is a compelling and heart-warming story, without question. But the story of Michael Oher is really an illustration of the rise of the importance of the position of left tackle in the NFL and college football its rising importance at the high school level.
The first two chapters are not about Oher, at all. They are a history of the position of left tackle. It was just another offensive lineman position. Coach Bill Walsh had developed an offensive system that made the level of talent the quarterback possessed less important. It was more about timing and completing relatively short passes. This became a much more effective offense than one that relied mainly on running plays. It also made the quarterback a valuable commodity. Then came Lawrence Taylor. His goal was to crush the quarterback. And he was good at it. Most quarterbacks are right handed, and this made their left side their blind side. This is the direction Taylor would attack from. The offense would rearrange their line to stop Taylor, but that just opened up other opportunities for the defense. Suddenly, the offensive position of left tackle became a highly specialized, very important position to protect the quarterback from players like Taylor.
It is in the context of this lesson in football strategy that Lewis tells the story of Michael Oher. He has grown up in abject poverty. He has often been homeless. He would sleep wherever anyone would let him lay down for the night. Through what can only be described as providential circumstances, he makes his way to Briarcrest Christian School. He could not be more out of place. He is a large, poor, ignorant (not stupid or unintelligent, just ignorant) black high school kid in a rich, almost exclusively white, private Christian school. There he meets Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy. They are a wealthy evangelical Christian family who end up taking Oher into their home and family. They provide for his education, clothing, food, and whatever else he might conceivably need. With much effort, they get him through high school and he attends Ole Miss on a football scholarship. In the 2009 NFL Draft, Oher was selected by the Baltimore Ravens to start on their offensive line.
I thought the mixing of the rise of the importance of the left tackle and the story of the success of Michael Oher was a bit odd and disjointed at first. On reflection, if the left tackle position had not become so important, the Oher story might not have turned out as it did. I contend that his life would have still been improved in unimaginable ways. When the Tuohy family took him in, it was not to turn him into a football machine. It was because they saw a cold, poor kid who needed someone to help provide for him. They did the right thing because it was the right thing. The Tuohy’s are not presented as being perfect or as moralizers. They are presented as humans who have flaws but are trying to live out the faith they claim to possess. There are some language issues in The Blind Side. Some parts of the story are a little gritty. But so is life sometimes. If the language will not offend you too much, I highly recommend this book. It is an inspiring story providing an example of faith in action.