I pulled up to the bookstore an hour and a half early, and the line was already wrapped around the corner. A collection of housewives, retirees, and college students filled the sidewalk, and while small groups bubbled together lost in their conversations, outliers stared into the local store windows. Driving by, I noticed that this bizarre mixture of people, though full of contrast, shared a common quality; they were all carrying the same book.
My oldest nephew has always had a strong interest in sports and those who play them. Even as a two year old, he would ask for ESPN and would point out the baseball scores in the paper. Even when I saw him a few weeks ago, now at the age of 13, he was wearing a Troy Polamalu jersey underneath his Ben Roethlisberger jersey. When I had found out that Michael Oher, offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, would be in the small town of Oxford Mississippi signing copies of his new book, I knew that I needed to get a copy for my nephew.
After a lengthy wait full of awkward conversations with people waiting with me, I finally got to the front of the line for a quick handshake, a how-you-doing, a signature, and a blurry picture (I photo-bombed my own picture) that you can see below.
In full disclosure, I have a second copy of I Beat the Odds, which I received through a contest that Oher lead through twitter. He asked for pictures of ways people celebrated Valentine’s Day. I sent a picture of my son kissing his mom, and it probably would not have won if not for our mutual acquaintance and NFL cornerback, Trumaine McBride, who implored to Oher to help me.
— Trumaine McBride (@TruMcBride) February 14, 2012
Now, on to the book.
I beat the odds. That is a statement that any athlete at the professional level can honestly say. A quick Google search finds statistics like one out of every 16,000 high school athlete will play at the professional level. However, when Michael Oher says that he beat the odds, he means it on a much larger scale. As many know from the movie the Blindside (based on a book of the same title), Oher grew up in situations such as homelessness, living with a mother on drugs, as well as living in foster care. Sadly, he and his siblings were separated due to the fact that his mother could not function well enough to keep her house in order, and Oher bounced from classroom to classroom all throughout his elementary and middle school years without any form of educational guidance.
I encourage you to read his story to learn how Oher went from a toddler scrounging for scraps with his brothers while locked out of their house for a weekend to a first round draft pick in the NFL and a college graduate. If you choose, you can also watch the pop-corn version in the Blindside. (Honestly, though, the real story is much more dramatic and inspiring.)
In I Beat the Odds, Oher admits that he has to swallow a lot of pride when watching his big screen counterpart as he is portrayed as slow-witted and ignorant to the ways of football. I can imagine that every time he hears about the movie, he wants to interject that there were scenes in the movie that never really happened. But Oher understands that this is a burden he must bare, because the movie gave him a voice to speak his message.
Oher states early in the book that his intentions for writing I Beat the Odds are, first and foremost, to impart into children growing up in a similar situation that there is a way out. Of course, not everyone can play offensive tackle in the NFL (they won’t even let me try out), but everyone has some talent to hold on to, develop, and use as a vehicle for success. And if you are determined enough and refuse to be distracted, then you can get out of your terrible situation.
Or in Oher’s words, “You don’t have to get adopted by a rich family to make it. You don’t have to get adopted at all. You just have to have it set in your brain that you are going to make a better life for yourself, and you have to be committed to making that happen.”
I have a lot of respect for Michael Oher, not because of his athletic ability, but because he has overcome all odds to be the person he is today. We need to hear more stories like Oher’s. I have a lot of respect for Michael Oher, because he recognizes that his story is an example for kids all over the nation. He is using his stage to help children. In some ways, Oher is a real-life Bruce Wayne… well… I haven’t heard whether he is a vigilante crime fighter or not. But whether he is or not, he is encouraging us all to help make the statement “I beat the odds” a little more common.
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