Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: The Blind Side

“The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different - to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses” ~ John Fischer 

We had been planning to start a book club. Over the months (or is it a year already?), it has evolved into an online book club as one of our members, Joyce now resides and teaches yoga in Jakarta, Indonesia. 

Our first book is The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. Needless to say, we promptly missed the book club discussion -- something to do with mixed up in time zones and connectivity. Besides, my two other friends and members, Joyce and Febz, weren't able to finish the book. Hahaha. 

The book is an extraordinary real-life account of how a marginalized black kid who has the gift of football greatness as observed by the local coaches and confirmed by an independent but with authority talent scout, Tom Lemming beats the odds, in life and in the game.

The drama unfolds when a white family not just help but adopts, legally, Michael Oher -- the celebrated albeit virtually unknown football great, left tackle considered to be the ideal position to counter the blind side of the quarterback. His is a story of a black kid living in a dilapidated housing community bereft of a mother's care but with a combined innate ability in athletics, gigantic body build, and height.

As a child he dreamt of becoming the next Michael Jordan. But in school he drifted from basketball to football, never really seeing himself in the game but prodded by the coaches who see his potential. Without the care of his drunkard mother, his education is hampered. It's as if he really hasn't learned at all. In fact, his IQ was only measured at 80 but the teachers just let him go on to the next level, passing on to someone else's the responsibility of molding him.

The series of life "accidents" propelled him to be in the right place at the right time paved a way for him to fulfill the promise of greatness. It is as they say, the road was never straight and narrow but winding and full of humps and forks.

Reading the book needs total concentration and keenness on details as it's sprinkled with sports statistics, characters and jargons. For a non-football fan, it makes the reading quite taxing.

As I read it though, I tended to focus and identify on its emotional appeal. It is such an amazing real life story of how second chances could transform a life of an individual. And how people who are powerless, economically and socially can hope for a future. It reinforces America's image of a country that offers equal opportunity. But it doesn't belie the fact that the road can be lonely and is a huge undertaking.

And it can be true to any society. On two counts, I am deeply moved. One, that there are people who are willing to go out on a limb for other people. That care is a universal suit. Or armor. Second, though talent is not enough, it is a springboard. And when you harness it, the universe conspires to make it happen.

Whether in first world America or in third world Philippines, a gem can be found even in unlikeliest places. It may be from the heart of the slums. If you are in a position to extend a hand, the fate of one 'hopeless and hapless' individual can be turned.

It makes me appreciate more what those Futsal/Street Football sponsors are doing. I believe that in the long run, not just skills and talents are being cultivated but re-shaping of a child's destiny.

And The Blind Side confirms that.

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