I am not a football fan, not even close. So, I came at this book via the route most Americans probably took. I saw that there was a new flick and that it had an engaging actress in it and that it had some Oscar nods. Looked good, rented, watched.
Yup, it was a good movie, but the first 5 minutes were particularly intriguing. Why begin a rags-to-riches tale by discussing how the game of football has changed due to the lack of defense around a passing player (i.e., the quarterback)? Yes, it impacts the story, but this was not the story they were telling. Since I knew the film was based on a book, I thought I'd give that a try as well. (In the interest of full disclosure, several folks had highly recommended it by that time.)
Michael Lewis is now in my list of top 5 favorite non-fiction writers. I mean, here's a book with an overabundance of details about the game of football, all to describe the importance of one player: the left tackle. How much more boring can you get? Lewis' gift is to weave the statistics of the game, the players and, most importantly, the coaches into a tale that keeps you glued to the page. Really. Even a page spouting the percentage of complete passes for this quarterback and that quarterback and yet another quarterback... kept me waiting breathlessly for the reveal. And there was always a reveal.
The family in the film, the Tuohys, and their adopted son, Michael Oher, are in half of this book and are just as engaging to read about-- Michael's story is sad, startling and ultimately triumphant-- but, believe it or not, the chapters about the game itself were why I kept on reading. No, I will not be turning into a football fan as a result, but that's not why I read it and not why you should read it. Read it because Lewis is a master at the art of journalism in its most pure form.