The Blind Side
Author: Michael Lewis
Amazon: The Blind Side
The description on the back cover of The Blind Side does a great job teasing the book so I'll use it this one time.
"When we first meet him, Michaell Oher 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 where 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"
Lewis has amazing access to Oher (through a pre-existing friendship with the family that adopts him) and is able to really get to the heart of his story. Lewis, the author of Liar's Poker and Moneyball, is at his best when he tackles a complicated trend, industry or activity and breaks it down into laymen's terms. In The Blind Side he details the evolution of the Offensive Linemen from underappreciated hogs in a system to valuable superstars. In doing that he gets to dissect how Lawrence Taylor changed the game, the origin of Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense and the business of high school football recruiting. The book does a great job on both the micro (Oher's story) and macro level and works from both a football and cultural anthropology angle.
I enjoy reading Michael Lewis and have read most of his books. He gives you the inside scoop on whatever he is writing about and allows you to feel like he's letting you in on industry secrets.
My overwhelming feeling throughout the story was that Michael Oher has had tremendous opportunities afforded to him just because he's a big boy. Oher did work incredible hard to succeed and it's hard to call him "lucky" because his background was just about as shitty of a hand as one could get dealt. But shouldn't there be better ways to identify kids from inner cities or in the system who show tremendous talent or potential (not just in sports either) and get them on a more positive track?
I was impressed how Oher was able to operate in a proper Christian white world and how they were able to adapt to him. I just wish it would happen more often in our society. I definitely drew some comparisons between Oher and Ishmael Beah in A Long Way Gone and while both boys have overcome extreme trauma and seemingly impossible circumstances it still a bit depressing how many other boys there are that are just like them but don't get anywhere near the opportunities to succeed that they did.
As for the NFL stuff, I'm always interested to learn more about football strategy and history. It's the one sport that I never played growing up. So unlike baseball or basketball where I feel like I know just about every strategy and situation, I usually watch football with a bit less deeper of an understanding of what's going on. For instance, I have no idea which teams use a 3-4 and which teams use a 4-3 and why a coach would favor one over the other (Lewis explains it).
Definitely a fun and interesting book worth reading.