Book Review: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

I’m not too interested in football but I read (with my ears) The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game (2006) by Michael Lewis because it sounded like an intriguing story and I’d liked Lewis’ earlier sports book MoneyballThe Blind Side deals with a change that occurred in the NFL with the emergence of the New York Giants’ linebacker Lawrence Taylor.  Taylor was able to change the game because he was a huge man but also fast, agile, and athletic.  As a result he was able to put fear in the hearts of NFL quarterbacks by being able to come at them fast and furious from the right, their blind side.  Lewis details LT’s effect in a second-by-second retelling of the four-second play that ended Washington QB Joe Thiesman’s careeer (which you can see in all its gory on YouTube).  As a result, NFL teams had to find big, agile men to play Left Tackle to defend against the rushing Lawrence Taylors of the game.  The importance of a good protection for the QB has resulted in Left Tackles being among the most highly paid players in the game.

After this prologue, the narrative switches to the story of Michael Oher, a left tackle at Ole Miss expected to be one of the top choices in next year’s NFL draft.  Oher is a big, athletic young man and a talented football player, but his life story as told by Lewis is far more intriguing.  Oher never even played organized football until he was 16 and that was at the unlikely location of a private Christian school in Memphis.  Escaping poverty in this wealthy, mostly-white school, Oher wins the hearts of a coach Sean Tuohy and his wife Leigh Ann who take Oher into their home and eventually adopt him.  Oher’s struggles to improve academically after a lifetime of almost no formal education are the most inspiring parts of the book, especially a section where Sean and Michael work out the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Despite the title, this book actually has little to do with football, but it is a story of hope and generosity and what can happen when an impoverished boy receives some loving nurturing.  When amateur drafts are discussed in the sports media, they can be dehumanizing, treating the players as commodities.  Thanks to Michael Lewis, we can know the story of one of those very real human beings who happen to play the sport of football.

A portion of the story may also be read in the New York Times article “The Ballad of Big Mike.” There are also plans afoot to adapt the book into a movie.

Author Lewis, Michael (Michael M.)
Title The blind side [sound recording] : [evolution of a game] / Michael Lewis.
Publication Info. New York : Random House Audio, p2006.
Edition Abridged.
Description 5 sound discs (6 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.