Oher dispels ‘Blind Side’ myth

Los Angeles TimesFebruary 3, 2013 

NEW ORLEANS — He’s a real person. He’s not some cartoon giant being dragged out of a cold fog by Sandra Bullock in a scene that made America cry.

He’s a real football player. He’s not some lost soul in oversized pads requiring an on-field pep talk from Bullock before blocking someone in a scene that made America cheer.

When Michael Oher sat down at a ballroom table with bright eyes, firm handshake and thoughtful answers, one could immediately understand his dislike for the incessant rewinding of a scarred and distant childhood.

The movie was “The Blind Side.”

Yet, it turns out, it was the main character who has been blindsided.

“I’m tired of the movie,” he said. “Football is what got me here, and the movie, it wasn’t me.”

Four years after the $300 million run of a tale about an impoverished black child adopted by a wealthy white family and mentored to football stardom, its real-life inspiration would like to be viewed in real life.

He is no longer Big Mike. He is a member of the Baltimore Ravens. He is no longer a man-child who sleeps on a rich family’s couch and plays with their son and crashes their car and eventually becomes part of their brood. He is the starting right tackle on an offensive line that will be greatly tested by the powerful San Francisco 49ers in today’s Super Bowl.

In navigating a Super Bowl madness that magnifies every crumb of a man’s past, he does not want to be seen as a pep talk about compassion or a living poster of perseverance. He wants only to be just another big dude on the verge of winning a big football game.

“It’s all been extremely crazy, man,” Oher explained in his slow Southern drawl. “That’s why I play football and don’t deal with Hollywood.”

The movie, which was based on a book by Michael Lewis, followed Oher’s life from his troubled adolescence to earning a football scholarship at Ole Miss. It received worldwide acclaim and an Academy Award for Bullock, who played Oher’s strong-willed adoptive mother Leigh Anne Tuohy. It is one of those family flicks that many have seen more than once.

Many, but not Oher. He has seen it once, and never again.

“It’s all I needed to see,” he said. “I watch a lot of movies, and I just haven’t gotten around back to it.”

He’s never met two of the film’s most famous actors, Bullock and Tim McGraw, who played his father. He met Quinton Aaron, the man who played him, about a year after the movie’s release.

“People who watch ‘The Blind Side,’ they’re not going to have a chance to get to know me,” he said.

And, oh yeah, he said this movie that made so much money from his troubled soul has never netted him a penny.

“No, nothing, nothing at all,” Oher said with a laugh. “Nothing coming to me on a quarterly basis.”

But Oher said his biggest specific problem with the movie isn’t about the glamour, it’s about the football. He said its depiction of his early struggles with the basics of the game were wrong. He said he didn’t mind being shown as someone struggling with poverty and abandonment. But, goodness, he always knew how to block.

“The movie is great, it’s very inspiring to tons of people all over the world, but the main problem I have is with the football part of it,” he said. “Sports is all I had growing up, and the movie made me look like I didn’t know anything.”

Still, Oher acknowledges, “I’ve come a long way. It’s unbelievable, amazing, what I had to overcome, it’s all remarkable.”

He said he would have to “think long and hard” about being involved in a “Blind Side II.” One suspects a Ravens victory in Super Bowl XLVII would be sequel enough.

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