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The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game Paperback – September 17, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
As in Moneyball (**** July/Aug 2003), which chronicled the strategies behind the Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, Berkeley-based author Michael Lewis takes a personal look at a complicated game in his newest nonfiction extravaganza. Just as they embraced Moneyball, critics eagerly wrap their arms around The Blind Side. It's much more than a treatise on football; it's an exploration of the limits of conventional thinking and how strategic changes affect the value of quick-footed behemoths. However, while most reviewers are positive, something holds them back. Maybe Lewis makes it all look too easy. Or perhaps, as The New York Times charges, he takes the easy route through a complicated set of stories. That he makes it easy for his reader to comprehendand enjoyis enough for most critics to give Lewis's latest a rousing cheer.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Lewis begins by telling the story of Bill Walsh and the rise of the West Coast offense in the NFL in the early 80's, and how it was almost rejected out of hand by the powers that be. The success of the San Francisco 49er's and it's role in changing the financial resources of the sport from a TV football viewing audience, led to the need for fast defensive lineman, like Lawrence Taylor, which led in turn to the development of the left tackle position, which is now the second highest paid position in the League, due to a demand for specific physical skills which are almost impossible to find for that role.
Then Lewis telescopes to a most remarkable story: the young, troubled life of Michael Oher, from Memphis, TN. Lewis does show how the colleges have developed NFL tendencies, and how the demand for information about specific talent has been met by people like Tom Lemming and his ground breaking recruiting services of the past 30 years. Oher is a most unlikely story. He was given up by his family, the state welfare agencies, schools, foster agencies, etc., until one day, an older friend took him to an evangelical school in a wealthy, mostly white, suburb of Memphis in hopes of giving him a Christian education.
Oher has no academic skills and has been beat down by life so much, he has no social skills, and does not fit in at all with the other students, until one day, out of kindness and mercy, he is given the opportunity to try out for the school's football team, where runs one drill and stuns the team. Soon at practice, the school field is lined with representatives of nearly major college football in the southeast, and the first drill is interrupted by Clemson assistant Brad Scott telling the staff, in Oher's presence on the field, that Oher has a full scholarship waiting for him at Clemson. Oher is eventually adopted by the Tuohy family, a millionaire family, well connected in sports and business, and the culture clash, between a wealthy, devout family and a social reclusive, poor, giant of a kid takes up the remainder of the book, until Oher eventually enrolls at the Tuohy's alma mater, Mississippi.
Lewis's story is satisfying from many perspectives. He goes deep into the modern cultural and financial behemoth of American football to show why it is working the way it is today. He illustrates well, the lingering tensions in America today between white and black, poor and wealthy, urban and suburb, family breakdown, and college admissions. This reviewer, a graduate of a southern Christian high school, sees where Lewis gets right many things about that movement: a deep sense of piety, a dedicated work ethic, and at many times an oblivious nature to how the rest of the world works, and an inability to deal with many problems endemic to modern children in a deep way: poverty, family breakdown, etc. Though Lewis does get right the sense of mercy that exists among many, motivated by their faith, to help someone in need, whether they understand the costs or not.
Lewis, unfortunately, does not reveal his longstanding personal relationship with the Tuohy family, going back to their undergraduate years until the end of the book. It would have been helpful for a journalist to reveal that early on. And, Lewis is a bit too sympathetic in explaining a fight Oher got into over a personal insult in his freshman year at Ole Miss, that led to a small child being hurt accidentally.
The Blind Side is a remarkable tale of sport, money, class, culture, family and how faith interacts with real individuals dealing with impossible situations.
I was fascinated with how Bill Walsh's offensive schemes transformed the NFL into a pass happy league and also enjoyed the stories surround the infancy and development of the West Coast Offense. This "B" Story is jam packed with anecdotes and statistics that backed up the notion that Bill Walsh was an overlooked genius, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
There were a lot of details about Oher's life and the entire recruiting process that were either changed or overlooked in the movie. That alone was enough to make this book worthwhile, if you loved the movie as much as I did. However, whether you liked the movie or not, if you are a football fan, this is a must read.
With a clear, clean, easy-to-understand, and easy-to-relate-to style Michael Lewis explains it all. And sheds a huge spotlight on several important things that I never noticed as a youngster: 1) the incredible change of the game that Bill Walsh brought about and 2) the unsung heros of the game as embodied by the left tackle and other linemen.
Yes, The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher and his amazing journey out of the ghetto and into the limelight... due largely to Sean and Leigh-Ann Tuohy. And that story was interesting, if not a little hackneyed. (I'm a bit embarassed about my cynicism, but there you go).
But I really, really enjoyed the insights that Lewis brings to the game of football and will not watch football the same way again EVER! I look forward to everything Michael Lewis writes with glee and he is the only author that I buy in hardback. And this book does not disappoint. It was completely engaging and entertaining. While I watch football sporatically nowadays, I can't wait to go to a game soon and concentrate on the left tackle......