Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side

Michael Lewis' The Blind Side provides informative and entertaining backstory for the movie by the same name.

The Blind Side was America’s top grossing movie last week, as Michael Oher’s rags to riches story has captivated people across the country.

For those who have not seen the movie, Oher an enormous teenager who lived in a series of foster homes after being abandoned by his drug-addicted mother before being adopted by a white family.  After an All-American career at the University of Mississippi, he was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.

Oher plays left tackle, a position that is particularly critical for protecting the team’s quarterback because he cannot see who is coming after him on that side (Hence the book’s title.).  His story was first chronicled in-depth by Michael Lewis in his book  The Blind Side, an engaging and entertaining work that fans of Moneyball will be sure to enjoy.

As with Moneyball, Lewis begins the book with a question: why did left tackle Jonathan Ogden sign a contract with the Ravens for a salary that was dramatically higher than that of quarterback Trent Dilfer?

The answer, Lewis found, lay in the need to keep quarterbacks life Dilfer safe from the likes of marauding linebackers like Lawrence Taylor and Chris Doleman, both of whom terrorized defenses in the 80s and 90s.

Toward the beginning of the book, Lewis describes the gruesome and unforgettable play in which Taylor broke Washington Redskins’ quarter Joe Theismann’s leg during a sack.  After this vignette, he discusses how Doleman wreaked havoc on the Bill Walsh-coached 49ers during a playoff game that Doleman’s Vikings won.

Into this professional backdrop, Lewis introduces Oher.

The book then alternates between the ascending importance of left tackles and the increasing size, speed, strength and skill of men who play that position, with Oher’s heartwarming if slightly paternalistic story.

Oher’s story appears to have a happy ending thus far.  In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney hedged when asked if Oher could match Ogden’s accomplishments, but did say that his hard work could take him far.

Readers of The Blind Side will take pleasure in the places Lewis takes them while tracing the related journeys of Oher and the position he plays.

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4 responses to “Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side

  1. Like many people, I am uncomfortable with the on-going Hollywood fascination with stories of heroic white folk who manage to rescue black folk from this or that social pathology. While this might be mitigated by the fact that this is a “true” story, there is still the fact this kind of story is far too often related to make white liberals of a certain bent feel good about themselves and their relationship with the African-American community. Considering this film is being released at the same time as a film on the South African Rugby team (with similar themes) and the film Precious, with its detailed account of all sorts of familial dysfunction in a black family leave me wondering about the motivation behind these films, and the weird juxtaposition of them released almost simultaneously.

    • jeffkellylowenstein3

      Thanks, Geoff, for your comment. I hear you completely about the white guy as savior genre. The Carlin book about Mandela and his negotiations is lighter on that theme than either Invictus or The Blind Side seem to be.

      I have not seen Precious, but my understanding that it is a predominantly black cast and that Mariah Carey as the social worker plays an important role in helping to facilitate change.

      Hope all is well with you and your family.

      Thanks again for enhancing the discussion.

      Jeff

  2. If I had to guess, I think the theme of white people as savior is almost a recapitulation of our view of our best selves. “We’re not a racist society, because, look here! These white folk helped save a poor black kid!” My inclusion of Precious, as a kind of counterpoint, is that, while I understand it, like Invictus and The Blind Side, is based on real events, its wallowing in the mire of certain psychopathologies not exactly limited to the African-American community, yet nevertheless presented in that context, certainly seems to be shouting, “See? See what we’re rescuing them from?”

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