Thursday, October 05, 2006

Words: The Blind Side (Michael Lewis)

Why are we so interested in sports and the lives athletes lead? Truly their contributions don't exactly change our lives. Or at least they wouldn't if we didn't care so much. But if we didn't care, they would just be people who were good at something, just like there is someone who can build furniture like no other or the mom who is really good at chocolate chip brownies. But that's all hypothetical. We care about sports in America. A whole lot. Lord knows what percent of the gross domestic product is tied to it. Astronomical I'm sure.

So here's this book telling this story about a rags-to-riches kid in Tennessee who plays football and gets the big time literally handed to him. But it's not so simple. And it's much more compelling.

Michael Lewis, who wrote Moneyball, which exposed the nouveau mindset behind talent evaluation in Major League Baseball, takes on this ride. Lewis deftly juxtaposes the evolution of the importance of the left tackle position in professional football with the story of Michael Oher, a kid who only played 15 games of high school football but ends up a high school All-American with a full ride at the University of Mississippi. He begins by giving readers insight into why left tackles became so important. Mainly it's because as the NFL became more pass-dependent the left tackle was necessary to neutralize pass rushers like Lawrence Taylor that came on the blind side (the one he can't see) of the quarterback. Basically the position requires freaks of nature, huge strong guys who run inexplicably fast. And Michael Oher is just that.

Except he is seriously behind in school. Doesn't know where his father or 12 other siblings are. Oh and has nowhere to live. Miraculously he ends up at a white Christian school on the other side of Memphis and gets adopted by a well-to-do white family. I don't want to give too much away but it's not as heartless as I may have painted it.

Throughout the book, Lewis does a awesome job of letting the story tell itself. Most times it does seem like true non-fiction. Even when he offers his own opinion, it doesn't sound authoritative; he lets the reader decide. But he makes seriously adept observations about culture, and not just sports.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book. It was laugh out loud at points and opened my eyes to a lot about football and our culture. But mostly I was really inspired and impressed with the human condition. I guess we're not as destitute as I thought we were.

No comments: