The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

February 16, 2010

the blind side Summary: Michael Oher is a hulking mass of a teenager who is essentially homeless due to his mother’s drug addictions. Michael has been staying with friend Steve Hamilton and his family, but that situation is precarious. Steve’s father “Big Tony” does what he can to help Michael, which includes talking the football coach at a private Christian school called Briarcrest into accepting both Steve and Michael as students. At first coach Hugh Freeze is reluctant because Michael’s grades are terrible and his aptitude test scores don’t show any promise. But after one look at how big Michael is and considering what he might be able to do for the football team, Coach Freeze succeeds in getting the boy admitted, all while hoping the kid doesn’t suddenly get it into his head to try any of those diets for quick weight loss.

Soon, however, Steve’s mother insists that Michael has to leave her house. After all, they can’t continue taking care of him indefinitely. Thus Michael is left to wear the same clothes day after day and wander around aimlessly after school with nothing to do. One night, he attracts the attention of the wealthy Leigh Ann Tuohy, a Briarcrest parent, who is surprised to see Michael walking in shorts even though it’s very cold out. She convinced husband Sean to bring Michael back to their house, where he camps out on the couch.

Michael doesn’t talk much, so it takes a long time for Leigh Ann to get his full story. Once she realizes that he’s got no place to go, she immediately opens her home to him. This gets her snooty friends talking, but Leigh Ann doesn’t care. It’s the Christian thing to do, so she welcomes Michael with open arms. Her children SJ and Collins do, too.

The rest of the book then details how Michael develops into a top recruit out of high school despite being a rather mediocre football player. Coaches are more impressed by his size and potential than his current ability. We also learn how hard Michael worked to get his grades up enough to accept a scholarship to play Division I ball, and how the Tuohys provided a tutor named to ensure that he had all the help he needed. Finally, Michael is able to graduate from high school and attend Ole Miss on a full football scholarship. Despite some problems and missteps (including an NCAA investigation into potential wrongdoing) Michael Oher eventually would become the first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL draft.

Liked:

  • This was an incredibly inspiring story. I know some people will choose to attribute cynical motives to the Tuohys, but I choose to believe that they truly loved Michael and did all of these things for him without taking into consideration a future in football. After all, Oher wasn’t even a decent player when they took him in!
  • Michael Lewis had an incredible amount of access to the family, and it showed. There was lots of great inside information about what happened behind the scenes, and the book obviously can go into much more detail than the film. This was a very engrossing read for the most part.
  • I liked that Lewis didn’t pull any punches — especially when it came to talking about how Oher magically got his GPA up to an acceptable level. His info about the 10-day BYU classes being able to erase old grades was eye-opening. I wish that option had been around when I was in school! I wonder if BYU still offers that kind of program, and if so, how many would-be athletes now take advantage of it after reading Lewis’ book.
  • Michael Oher came off as a likable individual. I’m happy that he achieved success at Ole Miss and is now in the NFL.

Disliked:

  • Lewis talked a bit too much about tackles of yore, and how the position came to be viewed as so important today. I know the book’s subtitle was “Evolution of a Game”, so that kind of background was expected. But it was very, very boring to me and I ended up skimming most of those passages.

Rating:

This was one of the rare occasions when I was so moved by the film version that I decided to go back and read the book. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis perhaps isn’t as touching or personal as the movie, but as I said above, it goes into far greater detail about what was happening in Oher’s life. Simply put, this was an excellent story. I give the book 4 stars out of 5.

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