Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Blind Sided

I read the book. I watched the draft. I knew his story. But it wasn't until I watched the evolution of Michael Oher unfold on the big screen that I realized just how special he is, and just how lucky we are that Big Mike is a Baltimore Raven.

What's amazing about some of the best sports movies of all time is that they are based on true stories. Stories so inspirational, that not only did they pass the test in a Hollywood pitch room, but they hold up on film too. The Rookie, Eight Men Out, Rudy...and now, The Blind Side.

For those new to the Oher saga, the movie provides an abridged version of his journey from having nowhere to sleep to starting in the NFL. At the center of the transformation, is a family who was willing to take Michael into their home, into their family and into their lives to give him the means to pursue an NFL dream. From giving him a warm meal on Thanksgiving and his own bed to providing a tutor and cheering him on from the stands, the Tuohys gave Oher a gift of a lifetime - a life.

The movie starred Sandra Bullock as Leigh Ann Tuohy, which of course gave the film its focal point. As a result, the movie centered on her bond with Michael, which eventually leads to the Tuohys becoming his legal guardians. The road is filled with moments that made you laugh, but even more moments that made you, well, get a little teary. Come on, I know its a football story, but thanks to the magic of hollywood, the kid found a home, got off the streets, got his first bed, learned biology, got through high school, made a few friends, gained a brother and a sister, got some new clothes, stood up to the old gang back in the projects, got a car, learned how to play tackle, got a scholarship and was drafted in to the NFL all within 124 minutes. Each step along the way was a story unto itself and of course the movie could only show so much. Which is why the book is so important as - at minimum - a companion reader.

Written by Michael Lewis of Moneyball fame, the book adds a sports skew to the story with the evolution of the left tackle position just as prevalent as the evolution of a young man. Starting with the career-ending sack of Joe Theisman by Lawrence Taylor on Monday Night Football, the story describes why the second most important man on the football field is now considered to be the man who protects number one. The Left Tackle. Responsible for protecting the Quarterback from oncoming defenders he cant see. Otherwise known as the blind side.

The book profiles the reasons for the growing emphasis on the LT, starting with the hit by L.T. The book references some of the best to play the position since that fateful Monday Night, including the original Raven (literally the first player drafted by the franchise) - Jonathan Ogden. J.O. was a mountainous man who spent more than a decade camped out on the left hand side of the line in Bmore. Its only fitting that less than a year after Ogden left his post, the man selected to help fill his shoes is a kid whose promise was predicated in part by Ogden's play at the position. Ogden's versatility, combined with his monster-like size, gave NFL scouts a protoype to compare all future footballers looking to play the line. In fact, the high school coach that helped get Michael into high school, and onto the field, saw those very traits in Oher. The Big O, just like J.O. And now, just like J.O., Oher wears the purple and black on Sundays and takes his place in front of 70,000 cheering Ravens fans with one mission in mind. To protect. The same as the Tuohys. And now his story gets to play out in Baltimore, but consider his pro career the sequel because his journey thus far has already earned itself a Hollywood ending.

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