The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

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The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

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Category: Sport
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A bit too heavy on the sports statistics for my liking, yet it was still an interesting, enjoyable read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: November 2009
Publisher: W W Norton and Co
ISBN: 978-0393338386

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I think my husband was a little taken aback to see me curled up on the sofa engrossed in a book about American Football. I suppose I should admit that I didn't actually know it was going to be about American Football. Well, I knew it was about a boy who played American Football, but I'd thought that was just going to be the background story, you know, like in Jerry Maguire. So the first chapter seemed to go on and on forever, and I thought my head might pop from reading about quarterbacks and blind sides and plays and offence and defence and running statistics...but then somehow I stumbled to the real heart of the story; the story of Michael Oher, a young African-American from the slums of Memphis whose father was never around, and whose mother was a drug addict and lost him to social services at a young age.

He ran away, repeatedly, and avoided school, foster care and real life as much as possible. He was huge, enormous, gigantic, yet surprisingly fleet of foot, and desperate to play basketball like Michael Jordan. And despite his poverty-stricken childhood he had somehow grown up to be a gentle, caring child, though he struggled hugely with communication, and lacked even the most basic academic skills. Somehow, miraculously, he found his way into a private Christian school where a millionaire white family, the Tuohy's, saw his troubles and took him under their wing and into their home and family. They nurtured him, and helped him, fought for him and encouraged him in sports, yet it turned out that his real gift lay not on the basketball court, but on the football field.

Michael Lewis details Michael Oher's story, from his appearance in the Tuohy's lives, through high school and on to College. I was hooked by the tale of this gargantuan child who had literally gone through a magical transformation, from a life of nothing to a fairytale existence where he had everything he could possibly need. And you don't begrudge him're just rooting for him to succeed. You can taste the hope, that he might, somehow, in spite of all the obstacles in his way, turn out to be a star football player and be able to transform his life, his fortune, all by himself and you will him on, wishing that he could learn how to trust this new family (who occasionally seem a little...well...intense), and that he might find the ability to pass through high school with good enough grades to get into college.

I had no idea, prior to reading this, that the world of American Football was quite so...well...obsessive. That scouts watch kids all across America for any glimmer of talent, or that there are lists drawn up of who looks hot for the future world of football, or the woo-ing that takes places as colleges vie with each other to try to encourage the best of the best to come and study at their institution and join their team, and this is long before they're even eligible to play for the NFL. Millions of dollars of money must be spent just looking for these kids, and I felt overwhelmed by the bombardment of interest that Michael endures when word gets around that he looks like he's going to be something special. Those years at school are hard enough as it is, without all this additional pressure and fame.

Although I found most of the football technicalities difficult to wade through, and be warned this comes and goes throughout the book so it's not just that first chapter, they do help to set the scene and they gave me, an American football virgin, some insight into the development of the game in recent years and the newly found importance of someone big, very big and strong, yet also fast to be able to guard the quarterback's vulnerable blind side. I suspect American Football fans would find all the statistics and in depth analyses of the game fascinating. But fortunately for me this wasn't completely a book about sports, but also had that human interest element, and the added spark of it being a true, and very recent, story. So, great for sports fanatics, or if you just fancy something completely different to your usual diet of chick lit then skim through the stats and read about the transforming power of love in a young kid's life.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For more about American Football try Paper Lion by George Plimpton.

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