The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game


Michael Lewis




Date Reviewed:

May 4, 2008

lindside is the story of Michael Oher, a very poor boy growing up in Memphis who happens to possess astonishing athletic capabilities - Oher is the epitome of a left tackle - he is gigantic, strong, lighting quick, and he has tremendously strong hands at the end of exceptionally long arms. Michael Oher is also uneducated, impoverished, and missing any sort of family structure. He has multiple brothers and sisters and half siblings, but the structureless family makes it difficult to determine who exactly he is related to.

Oher is blessed by lucky circumstances - a friend persuades the Briarcrest Christian School to give him admission, thus letting him escape the dire Memphis public schools. In Briarcrest, Oher is completely out of his depth, his education level is far below that of other children his age. But the staff of Briarcrest work closely with this giant of a young man. This is probably the best part of the book, it describes how a young child, who could easily have disappeared into the poverty and crime of Memphis (the descriptions of the poor neighborhoods of Memphis are particularly disheartening), is instead nurtured until he blossoms into a talent.

Michael Oher's talent is playing left tackle in football. His enormous size and strength and quickness combine to make him the ideal offensive lineman. Michael Lewis spends a good part of this book explaining the position of left tackle, but the simple explanation is this: the left tackle is the lineman most responsible for protecting the blind side of a right handed quarterback. When a QB holds the ball he naturally faces to the side that holds the ball, so, for most quarterbacks, their left side is the blind side, and thus that where they are most vulnerables, since they can't see a charging defensive player.

While he is Briarcrest, Oher is adopted by a wealthy couple, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. Sean made money in restaurants and in sports - he was a famous college basketball star in his own right. They seem to be motivated by altruistism in adopting Michael, but there is a hint that they only adopted him to cash in on his future earnings. This seems unlikely, after all, they are already quite well off and Oher's success is certainly not assured. There would be easier ways to make money.

Although there is some material in this book about Oher's high school career, his college foot ball career is barely mentioned. We read more about an incident between Oher and a taunting teammate, than we do about his exploits on the field. Oher ends up playing for Mississippi, and apparently acquitted himself well, because he was drafted in the first round and now starts for the Baltimore Ravens. So presumably he succeeded in using his athletic gifts to become an NFL player, which is a pretty good achievement for anyone, but especially for someone with his difficult background.

Since I read this book, it has been made into a movie. I will probably go see it, because the story is interesting enough. Lewis is a good writer, but somehow this reporting is not as riveting as his classic Moneyball.