Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Beat the Odds

This book strikes the right balance of cockiness and humility. Michael Oher is a little upset with the way he was treated in the Blind Side movie. This is his attempt to "set the record straight" with his account of his upbringing. He starts from his earliest memories growing up in the projects and continues through the period covered by The Blind Side and goes on to his being drafted in the NFL. (Perhaps he will update it to include winning the super bowl.)

The period corresponding to that covered in the Blind Side seems to agree with the other book on the major points. I had only read the book, and did not seem to see any major discrepancies in the story told in both. However, his beef seems to be primarily with the movie. While it got most of the "big facts" right, it did portray him as being "stupider" than he really was.

In this book, Oher presents the thesis that he was lucky to beat the odds and rise out of the projects and foster care system to achieve something with his life. When you live in squalor, that is what you are used to. It is difficult to be motivated to achieve anything else. Oher had a mix of motivation and a few highly motivated people that helped him to rise out of the conditions. However, there are many more people that are still "stuck" there. He would like them to have some of the basic help that he had. While the movie displays some of the "final" help in being adopted by a rich family, there were many other people on the way that helped him. These include some motivated teachers, foster parents and coaches that were willing to help him to achieve his goals. In this book, Oher is open to praise these helpers by names. He also mentions the many others that were a negative influence. Other than his mother, these were all mentioned anonymously and not dwelled on.

The book is a quick read and presents a message of the "other side" from somebody that has truly lived there. From his perspective, what is most needed is caring people willing to set examples and guide. Programs and other plans to reduce poverty coming from those that have not lived there may appear nice, but true caring is more valuable.

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