The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
Summary: When we first meet Michael Oher, he is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or how to read or write. He takes up football and school after a rich, white, Evangelical family plucks him from the streets. Then two great forces alter Oher: the family’s love and the evolution of professional football itself into a game in which the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist becomes the priceless package of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability: his blind side.
As a casual football fan, I don’t have a favorite team. Either I am rooting for the team from my current (or past) hometown, or I root for the underdog. I understand some of the rules of football. I don’t get all the jargon. Most of my football knowledge comes from listening to the PTI podcast or watching a 30 for 30 documentary. For a football novice like me, Michael Lewis did a great job of helping me understand football’s change from the running game to the passing game. Then, he showed me how this changed the importance of the left tackle position on the offensive line.
The Game Changer
I learned that basically two people, Lawrence Taylor and Bill Walsh, can be credited with literally changing the game of football. Did you know that before 1982 the NFL didn’t care about sacks? When L.T. entered the league, there were no official records of quarterback sacks. Thanks to L.T.’s aggressive defense, a new stat is around to keep you from finishing first in your fantasy league.
In conjunction with the rise of L.T., there was the paradigm shift to the passing game. The likelihood of a quarterback throwing an interception was about equal to the likelihood of a runner fumbling the ball. In fact, starting from the early 1960s, the yards gained when a team ran the ball consistently hovered around 4 yards. On the other hand, the average yards gained from passing the ball steadily increased from 4.6 yards in the 1960s to around 7 yards in the early 1990s.
You don’t even have to be good at math to realize passing the ball became the better method to get your team in the end zone. Walsh developed his West Coast offense in the early 1970s. Two decades later, every NFL team was using his offense techniques. With the rise of throwing the ball more during games paired with one of the most violent and aggressive pass rushers, who is fast and strong enough to protect the quarterback?
Michael Oher always dreamed of being as great as Michael Jordan. Although Michael is a big guy, he actually hates being called Big Mike. Also, there aren’t a lot of mirrors around for Michael to realize he was in fact a big and tall guy. It would be near impossible for him to physically become the small guy he thought himself to be. However, the effort Michael put into becoming the best basketball player actually gave him the skills to become an effective left tackle.
I believe Michael Oher’s success story is the living embodiment of the quote:
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.Seneca
What are the odds of a wealthy well-to-do family adopting a young man from the wrong side of the tracks with no path toward a positive future? Then, becoming part of that family leads said young man to a full scholarship at his new family’s alma mater. Furthermore, that young man’s hard wark and dedication during college leads to him becoming a first-round NFL draft pick. That is the epitome of luck!
The Blind Side is two stories within one book that can be enjoyed by both NFL aficionados and non-sports fans who just love a good human interest story. Although I found both stories compelling, I was drawn more to the story about the NFL offense than to the story of Michael Oher playing the role of orphan Annie. Rating: Page Turner