The Use of Sports in ‘The Blind Side’ The Blind Side is a movie which at first blush appears to be a sports movie, but later proves to be about family, with sports as background. A homeless 16-year-old African American child of a murdered father and drug-addicted mother (Lawrence, 2009), Michael Oher is taken in by a well-off Caucasian American family, largely through the initiative of Leigh Anne Tuohy, the apparently strong-willed, soft-hearted mom…
In the monologue, Leigh Anne injects a metaphor of sports as household budget: “As every housewife knows, the first check you write is for the mortgage, the second is for the insurance,” referring to the quarterback as the highest paid football player, and the left tackle as the second highest paid. The left tackle protects the quarterback on his blind side, and thus acts as insurance. Michael Oher was transformed by a combination of the love of his new family and his affinity for his new sport. He proved to be the ideal left tackle as he had a 98 percentile protective instinct. Camera shots played on his sudden change from quiet submission to assertiveness in locking the car door and ordering Leigh Anne not to leave the car in a dangerous neighbourhood. He translated this protective instinct to his team. He visualized his family members among his team mates, and used this visualization in his role as left tackle. This was shown in the close-up shot of Michael’s face with the voice-over of Leigh Anne, and the tights shots and the surprised reaction of the opposing players. The juxtaposition of sports and family life (with his biological and then his adoptive mom) further underscored family as the major theme and integrating sports into it. This message was carried forward when Leigh Anne was able to get Michael to play better than even his own coach can (“This team is your family, and you have to protect them. Tony is your quarterback. You protect his blind side. When you look at him, think of me.”) (Scholastic Scope, 2009). Michael’s improved game was not due to a study of technique as his coach was teaching, but by being given the proper motivation by Leigh Anne. In the family, sports was a way of life with members of the family participating meaningfully in helping Michael get his football scholarship. SJ’s negotiations with the university coaches vying to draft Michael without anybody (including the coaches) thinking it strange that the decision as to which university gets Michael requires winning over the small boy. Though the sports in this movie is a secondary theme it is nevertheless integral to the story, and the few football scenes that were included highlighted Michaels gradual development. In the initial game the moving shots and close ups gave the viewer the feeling of being part of the action. The close up shots highlighted Michael’s initial temerity, and then his change in attitude after his protective instincts have been triggered. Shots closed up on the reactions of the spectators, the bursts of cheers from the cheerleaders, and the interactions of players and coaches in both teams provided strong context against which the metamorphosis of Michael, from timid softie to aggressive blocker, was shown. Also, the choreographed plays showed that even a full contact sport like football should not be excessively violent. The trailing shots showed Michael “pulling his punches” – exerting only enough effort to stop his opponent, and when his opponent was down his instruction for the latter to “stay” in order to avoid getting hurt more than necessary. Parallels were drawn between sports and literature. Sean Tuohy drew a metaphor between the Charge of the Light Brigade (author: Alfred, Lord Tennyson) to football, and the motivation of players likened to soldiers: ...
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