His story is inspiring. But it’s also really depressing. Why?
The book / movie about Michael Oher (Go Ravens!), The Blind Side, tells the true story of a homeless, gentle giant who can play football. His background is typical for an inner city mionority. His parents were incapable of raising him or his siblings.
In the southern hospitality tradition, an affluent, influential family takes him in and raises him as their own. They help him with his school work and his football. Overall, he is a success and winds up in the NFL and an anchor player on a team that has been in the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. It’s a great story. Read the book, see the movie. Either way, it’s a powerful story
What is the real message of the story? Leigh Anne Tuohy, the real woman who adopted Oher in real life says:
There are a million Michaels. Not every kid has the potential to become a star player in the NFL, but that kid may be the person who grows up to cure cancer, or who becomes a great husband or wife to someone.
The “Michaels” are living in horrible conditions with little to no chance of discovering their gifts and talents. Theirs is a life of survival. And many do not.
The urban, gang riddled centers of our cities is sacrificing their youth. And lest you think it’s not YOUR problem, it is. The cure for cancer is in one of their potential lives. The next great discovery is being lost because so many of our youth don’t have the opportunity to hone their skills and talents.
There are a million Michaels. Their plight is a social problem that affects all of us. Too many intelligent, charismatic people are lost to the inner city.
Ted Williams is another exception. He was homeless. He had no shot at a better life. His talents would have remained hidden too. But he got lucky.
We can’t rely on the good fortune which befell Micheal Oher and Ted Williams to save an entire generation of lost minds.
I will never forget the enduring message of the ubiquitous PSA from the United Negro College Fund. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste“. When I was a kid, I heard that slogan a million times. One time for each of the million Michaels.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Yet, as a society, we do it all the time…
To me, that is the real, and depressing, message of the Ted Williams story.
Here is the original UNCF PSA: