Saturday, November 21, 2009

the blind side by mike lewis

Have you seen the preview for The Blind Side? You should take a look. Seriously. Next Hollywood blockbuster with a pay-it-forward sort of feel good moral. Its based on a true story about white people helping black people with their homelessness and drug addiction. And guess who the hero is? Football!

I read the review of the story in The Stranger and The Seattle Weekly.

I am sure the authors of these reviews all went to fine liberal arts universities and I commend them in their ability to point out the racism. Somebody please give them the Bill Cosby award.

If they had read Micheal Lewis' book, they would also know that the true story is aware of all their criticisms. Behind the movie script and the literary journalism are real people and a real moral dilemma regarding not only race and economic prejudice but also the sport of football and the impact it has on education and society.

It is easy to criticize white people for being so pompous as to paint themselves as the savior of poor black people and it is a legitimate argument. Michael Oher is adopted by the coach of Briarcrest Christian School for the explicit purpose of winning football games. The selflessness is a thin disguise for the true story of opportunists.

Also real are the benefits appreciated by Big Mike. He really was homeless. His mom really was a prostitute. His father really was a deadbeat living on the streets. Football changed all this.

Mike Lewis simply tells the story as any free market capitalist would see it. The sport of football presented a need for a tall athletic heavyweight and Big Mike was available to fill that need. Of course, Big Mike could not have made it on his own so he found assistance from Sean Tuohy and his wife.

The important dialogue that is being passed up here is: Sean Tuophy morally wrong for taking advantage of disenfranchised youth? He does pick the kid off the streets and give him an education. Is capitalism wrong for rewarding selfishness? Is football morally wrong for providing a means for the rags to riches story?

I can't comment on the movie because I have not seen it yet. I would not be surprised if the moral dilemma of the book is missing from the film. Please don't judge a book by its movie adaptation. All objections to the movie are actually the subject matter of the book. The "selfless and benevolent white people" are actually fully aware of their post-racist behavior and are torn between helping the kid and leaving him starving on the street. In the book, there is actually a parallel development between "Big Mike" and a lesser (little?) Mike character who does not get a football scholarship.

Friday Night Lights might be a better film but the literary story telling of The Blind Side is a terrific book. Also check out Mike Lewis's other novels.

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