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The Blind Side: Evolution of a Gameby Michael Lewis
Synopses & Reviews
'The young man at the center of this extraordinary and moving story will one day be among the most highly paid athletes in the National Football League. When we first meet him, he is one of thirteen children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or any of the things a child might learn in school such as, say, how to read or write. Nor has he ever touched a football.
What changes? He takes up football, and school, after a rich, Evangelical, Republican family plucks him from the mean streets. Their love is the first great force that alters the world\'s perception of the boy, whom they adopt. The second force is the evolution of professional football itself into a game where the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Our protagonist turns out to be the priceless combination of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback\'s greatest vulnerability: his blind side.'
"As he did so memorably for baseball in Moneyball, Lewis takes a statistical X-ray of the hidden substructure of football, outlining the invisible doings of unsung players that determine the outcome more than the showy exploits of point scorers. In his sketch of the gridiron arms race, first came the modern, meticulously choreographed passing offense, then the ferocious defensive pass rusher whose bone-crunching quarterback sacks demolished the best-laid passing game, and finally the rise of the left tackle — the offensive lineman tasked with protecting the quarterback from the pass rusher — whose presence is felt only through the game-deciding absence of said sacks. A rare creature combining 300 pounds of bulk with 'the body control of a ballerina,' the anonymous left tackle, Lewis notes, is now often a team's highest-paid player. Lewis fleshes this out with the colorful saga of left tackle prodigy Michael Oher. An intermittently homeless Memphis ghetto kid taken in by a rich white family and a Christian high school, Oher's preternatural size and agility soon has every college coach in the country courting him obsequiously. Combining a tour de force of sports analysis with a piquant ethnography of the South's pigskin mania, Lewis probes the fascinating question of whether football is a matter of brute force or subtle intellect. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"'There ain't much to being a football player,' wrote William 'Pudge' Heffelfinger, a legendary lineman of the 1890s, 'if you're a football player.' Michael Oher, the subject of Michael Lewis' exhilarating 'The Blind Side' and currently a sophomore at the University of Mississippi, is a football player. More precisely, Oher is an offensive left tackle and, as such, a highly prized commodity in modern... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) college and professional football. The story of the process that made his skills so valuable — and rescued him from a hellish life in the Memphis projects — is so improbable that it wouldn't survive a meeting with a producer of made-for-TV movies. For one thing, who would play Oher? Six feet 5 and 350 pounds as a teenager — according to the Ole Miss roster, he has slimmed down to 322 — Oher, in the words of one scout, 'looked like a house walking into a bigger house. He walked in the door and he barely fit through the door.' In addition to his almost preternatural size and strength, Oher was gifted with astonishing athletic talent (he is a superb schoolyard basketball player and was a record-setting high school discus hurler). The problem with getting him through high school was that, as one of his teachers put it, 'for him English was almost like a second language.' Lewis stumbled on the amazing story of Oher and his odyssey from a broken home and near street-person existence to big-time college football, through his friendship with Oher's rescuer, Sean Tuohy, a grade school and high school classmate of Lewis' in New Orleans who became a Memphis businessman. Tuohy and his dynamic wife, Leigh Anne, who are evangelical Christians, came in contact with Oher by what almost seems, in retrospect, to have been divine intervention. At the time they met, according to Leigh Anne, Oher had no identification, driver's license or birth certificate. 'There wasn't a shred of evidence he even existed,' she noted. The Tuohys became determined to set Oher on the right path, which in this case meant an education at Briarcrest Christian School (motto: 'Decidedly Academic, Distinctly Christian'). Or at least they made an attempt to educate Oher, who, when he entered the school, was as prepared for a formal education as Leigh Anne was to play offensive linebacker in the National Football League. An essay Oher wrote in his senior year expressed his bewilderment with his environment: 'I look and I see white everywhere: white walls, white floors, and a lot of white people. ... The teachers are not aware that I have no idea of anything they are talking about. ... I've never done homework in my life. I go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say, "This is not Mike Oher. I want to get out of this place."' But to where? The Tuohys' dogged persistence — they eventually became his adoptive parents — paved Oher's way to college and 'the one role on the football field the boy was uniquely suited to play.' The book's title, 'The Blind Side,' refers specifically to a right-handed quarterback's left side, which is vulnerable to the current breed of monster pass-rushers like former New York Giants great Lawrence Taylor, who once said, 'If I hit the guy right, I'll hit a nerve and he'll feel electrocuted; he'll forget for a few seconds that he's on a football field.' Lewis' narrative, in fact, begins with Taylor's rise to stardom in the mid-1980s as a response to the new passing-dominated offenses created by San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh. The player best positioned to blindside pass-rushers is the offensive left tackle, and to be successful he must be not only remarkably strong but also agile. Oher was both, and thus hugely attractive to major college recruiters. Michael Lewis is the author of 'Moneyball,' a groundbreaking study of the Oakland Athletics' general manager Billy Beane and his adroit use of baseball statistics to sign talent on a limited budget. Lewis is on less firm ground on football turf and makes some eye-catching errors: The 49ers quarterback Steve Young won one, not two, Super Bowls; the Buffalo Bills were not AFC champions in 1986; and NFL players won the right to limited free agency in 1989 and full free agency in 1993, not 1994. But Lewis' overview of the evolution of NFL strategy and Walsh's effect on the game is not only sound but shrewder than that of many so-called football insiders who can't see the forest for the trees. 'The Blind Side,' perhaps the best book written about a college football player since Willie Morris' 'The Courting of Marcus Dupree' (1983), grabs hold of you in several ways. On one hand, you'll be appalled by the tactics used to advance academically unqualified high school and college football players. At the same time, you'll be furiously turning the pages, rooting for Michael Oher to succeed. And the story isn't over: If Oher makes it into the NFL in three years, Lewis should have a dandy follow-up." Reviewed by Allen Barra, who writes about sports for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Lewis's discussion of evolving strategy is woven into the true focus of his book, a profile of African American football prodigy Michael Oher....His strange, sad, and yet inspiring tale is grippingly told here." Library Journal
"In another journalist's hands, Blind Side could have read like a magazine piece on steroids, but Lewis' deft skill as a narrator avoids that problem all the way through 288 pages." Oregonian
"In The Blind Side, Lewis takes on football, and specifically the mania for the game as encountered in Southern culture. It is a riveting account, though its pleasures — like those of watching grown men nearly kill one another over a pigskin — are ultimately distressing." Los Angeles Times
"Lewis tells an amazing true story in an appropriately mordant style... Oher's story is not pretty, but Lewis tells it well — and against all odds, it may be heading for a happy ending."George F. Will, New York Times Book Review
"Lewis has such a gift for storytelling...he writes as lucidly for sports fans as for those who read him for other reasons."--Janet Maslin, New York Times
One day Michael Oher will be among the most highly paid athletes in the National Football League. When we first meet him, 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. This paperback edition contains a brand-new 2007 afterword.
About the Author
The author of the bestsellers Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, and Moneyball, Michael Lewis writes regularly for the New York Times Magazine and Bloomberg News. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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