Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review (sort of): The Blind Side

Well, it seems to be the case that I've been out of touch, so I'm about to try to get back in the saddle. To be honest, the past month of my life--and that of any academic--has been a total blur. I can't for the life of me remember what was involved, but there were dozens of hours of critique, grading, and at least one lecture that I can remember. But, again, I can't hardly remember.

I don't know how the rest of you cope with insanity, but I use Netflix. I'm a total junkie. To the point that I tend to fall asleep in front of it. A few weeks ago I nodded off and spilled a whole mug of tea on the couch. Luckily it wasn't that hot. Then, last week, I fell asleep in front of it again and woke up to the birds chirping at 5 am. Pretty sweet. I used to think it was funny when my Dad fell asleep in front of the TV. Now I think it's a bit heroic.

Anyway, one of my forays into the Netflickery involved The Blind Side. This makes me exactly the last person in America to see it. But, since there are very few opportunities to flex my expertise in football and Memphis simultaneously, how am I supposed to resist?

Let me begin thusly. I don't care about how good the movie made you feel. In fact, I actively oppose feel good movies. They make me feel like I've been suckered. It's a bunch of Hallmarky pandering to people who seem to want to dive headfirst into every God-forsaken Hollywood cliche.

But, Adrian...it's a true story.

I don't care. And that's not my point. And neither is Sandra Bullock's acting, which, much to my absolute confusion, was actually good. Normally, she makes me want to jump off of the nearest bridge. And, I have local informants that tell me she nailed Mme. Tuohy right on the button. Tim McGraw, by the way, doesn't look at all like Sean Tuohy, who, as the color commentator for the Memphis Grizzlies has one of the jobs I most desperately covet.

My interest in The Blind Side is based in ancestry and tradition. The part of this movie that was the most authentic, the most fundamentally heartwarming was when Michael Oher was being interrogated by that horrid woman from the NCAA. Remember? She kept asking him about how he'd been cajoled into choosing Ole Miss. That's the University of Mississippi, in case you're keeping score at home.

What did he say? Do you remember?

He said that he wanted to go there because his family had been going there for generations.

He was adopted, remember?

How does that make sense, you ask?

This, dear friends, is the strength of the tradition of college football. Trust me, I went to Notre Dame. And, if you don't believe me, go to the downstairs bathroom in my dentist's house, where you can simultaneously relieve yourself and gaze upon prints of the Ole Miss campus.

For all of you that missed that part, let me assure you that it was the moment at which the entire movie demonstrated its veracity.

Second was every moment when the Tuohy family actively hated on the University of Tennessee, every one of which was totally hilarious. I mean, seriously, what is the problem with that orange color. And, before some RealTree-wearing fanatic decides to set up a deer blind near my house, we really need to talk about Albert Haynesworth's work ethic and Peyton Manning's latest interception.

Having studied amidst America's greatest college football tradition, I cannot explain the depth and resonance of such moments. If you need proof, ask someone from the University of Michigan about dotting the i. Or someone from Notre Dame about the University of Michigan.

You see, that's why The Blind Side was such a good movie. It was able to boil the entire history of college football into a single sentence. The ways in which our colleges and universities are able to create cultures around their sports is one of the most uniquely American experiences we've got. And the ways in which these sports create allegiances and commonalities amongst enormously disparate populations is essential to weaving this odd national fabric of ours.

And the way in which these allegiances can change the course of a single life--of an individual, of a family, of a viewing nation--is quite extraordinary.

Michael Oher, bless his Flacco-protecting soul, is simply the most tangible example of this we've had in a long while. Presumably, there are innumerable others. Their success simply hasn't had the benefit of the Walt Disney Corporation, the 24-hour news cycle, and Roger Goodell's marketing aggression.

For this he should certainly be celebrated, most because he represents all of the unnamed student-athletes who damn near kill themselves for the fleeting and ephemeral opportunities afforded by sports. They are, like the rest of us, looking for that small window of opportunity through which to jump.

Onward to victory.

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