“People like to talk about “Cinderella stories,” but Cinderella didn’t get her happy ending without lifting a finger. She had to show up at the ball, be charming and smooth, and win over the prince. Of course she had help along the way, but ultimately it was up to her to make the fairy-tale ending happen.”
Michael Oher, who had already made his name in high school and college football circles, became a household name when his story was turned into the Sandra Bullock starring family film The Blind Side. While Oher appreciates the movie on a superficial level, it is after all a well done film, he has struggled with how he is portrayed in both the film and book.
I Beat the Odds is the story of Michael Oher in the words of Michael Oher. His biggest grievance with The Blind Side is that he needed to be taught the game of football. This is not the case; he had been playing football for years although his primary sport was basketball.
“It’s true that we can’t help the circumstances we’re born into and some of us start out in a much tougher place than other people. But just because we started there doesn’t mean we have to end there.”
Oher takes the reader through his whole life: he grew up with a drug addicted mother, he was separated from his brothers, who he was incredibly close with, and sent to foster care as a young child. His stoicism was persevered as anger issues and he was sent to a hospital like facility which he then escaped and went back to his mother. No one from “the system” came looking for him.
Since he couldn’t rely on his mother he relied on friends’ families who would feed him and give him a place to stay; none of these were permanent options though and Michael never wanted to overstay his welcome. When a friend of his, whose father took an active interest in Michael’s education and potential sports future, began applying to schools Michael started taking a more active interest in his school work in order to follow him. This took him to Briarcrest where he continued to find kindness in his classmates but never felt comfortable fully sharing his situation.
Eventually he met the Tuhoys who took him in permanently, giving him a stable home environment as well as bringing in a tutor to raise his GPA. He thrived in their household, although he maintained contact with his mother, and eventually got a scholarship to University of Mississippi. While he worried the Blind Side book would hurt his chances, the book implied he was a slow learner, he was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens. Since the publication of this book he has won a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens before going to the Tennesse Titans (an unsuccessful partnership) and then the Carolina Panthers, where he made another trip to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, I just read that three days ago he was released from the Panthers for failing a physical.
Overall, Oher comes across as genuine and while he wants to clear up some misconceptions about his story he also wants to bring awareness to the plight of thousands of other children in situations similar to his own. In fact, the last few chapters are devoted to shining a light on the various charities that readers can support, which is a nice touch.