Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Blind Side (copy)

Super Bowl XLI is right around the corner, and I have the perfect book to whet your appetite. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, has written another sports expose titled The Blind Side. This time he aims his knowledgeable pen at the institution of football.

His first chapter retells the horrendous tackle Joe Theismann endured by Lawrence Taylor—an attack which ended his football career. The ABC game, a Monday Night Football production watched by 17.6 million viewers, featured the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. It was, “the start of the second quarter, first and 10 at midfield,” when Theismann caught the “flea flicker” and set up for a pass.

Out of nowhere Taylor raised his arm to sack attack Theismann. The force wasn’t in Taylor’s arm but rather in his descending right thigh. As he came down for the tackle his thigh was pushed down into Thiesmann’s right leg, fracturing tibia and fibula.

Lawrence Taylor had made a name for himself as a fanatical quarterback destroyer. Apparently, Taylor had a mild case of claustrophobia and preferred to maneuver away from the pack. This being, he would not lower himself into a set position when in the line of scrimmage. Once the ball was snapped, he preferred to move around the mass and be the guy closer to the top of any tackle.

Just by playing with his natural fear he became successful at “sacking the quarterback.” Time-after-time he went around the line and circled back to find the quarterback unprotected. He, in effect, hit the man from his blind side and created a new football strategy.

This new strategy requires a heavy, nimble man or waltzing elephant to be effective. It is a unique human that possesses this mixture, weight and grace—so unique, that the NFL is willing to pay big money for the specimen. The left tackle, Taylor’s position, is the second highest paid player, other than the quarterback.

Imagine you are a football scout and you have just seen an incredible sight, a sophomore at Briarcrest Christian School, bulky yet nimble, making three pointers on the Memphis basketball court. This is how Michael Oher first appeared to scout Tom Lemming, believing he had just witnessed the next Orlando Pace.

The next year, Lemming “ranked him [Oher] as the #1 offensive line prospect” in the country. Follow Oher’s evolution, currently playing at Ole Miss, from gentle giant to mean machine in this very entertaining book.