Michael Lewis was one of this week’s Authors @Google (that link should have his visit online in a few days), and I’m really glad I went. I picked up a copy of his most recent book, The Blind Side and finished it tonight: it’s as good a book as you’ll read this year. It’s ostensibly about Michael Oher, an abandoned child from the Memphis ghetto who, through a variety of circumstances, is adopted by a wealthy, evangelical Memphis family and gets a chance at an education. He’s 6’5”, well over 300 pounds, and ends up on the football team. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, yet his enormous physical ability makes him a near ideal specimen for left tackle.
Even if you consider yourself a football fan, you may not know (I sure didn’t) that the left tackle is the second highest paid position on the field (behind quarterback). In classic Lewis fashion (I thoroughly enjoyed The New New Thing, Moneyball and Liar’s Poker), Lewis finds more of a story here. It’s about the evolution of the left tackle. And football strategy over the past three decades. And class, race, and the questionable practice of college athletes who can’t be paid for their service. This is a page-turner: you cannot wait to turn the page to find out how Michael’s story turns out. But it’s Lewis’s fascination with Michael’s evolution from one of society’s least valued members (a homeless, abandoned child with almost no formal education) to an individual who, six years later, is going to likely be a first round draft pick in the NFL draft, all but ensuring him a $50 million+ windfall for a few years of his service.
After reading this book, I’ll never watch a football game the same way again. And I can’t wait to follow Michael’s career.