From the Beacon: True sports stories inspire beating odds

"From the snap of the ball to the snap of the first bone is closer to four seconds than to five."

So begins "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Michael Lewis who tells two stories with this book. One story is the evolution of football from a ground game to a passing game and with that the primacy of the left tackle today. This story is the background of the second story, the rescue and rise from a broken home in a Memphis ghetto of the agile, huge and determined youngster Michael Oher (pronounced "oar").

Even the elite athletes of the NFL are vulnerable to the fears of violent injuries. Bill Parcells, executive vice president of football operations for the Miami Dolphins, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, New England Patriots and New York Giants, knows that fear is a major factor in a game and lists the symptoms in quarterbacks: "intimidation, lack of confidence, quick throws, nervous feet, concentration lapses" and an obsession with knowing the pass rusher's location.

The left tackle is crucial because he protects a right-handed quarterback's blind side from the opposing team's pass rusher. This is a primary reason that left tackles today are one of the highest paid players on a team. Lewis explains how the talent of the left tackle goes beyond brute force: He must have speed, agility, timing and intellect to be successful.

Oher had an absent father and a mother addicted to drugs who gave birth to 13 children by two fathers. Oher attended 11 schools in nine years and he had no fixed address until he was 16. He could not read, he could not write and he did not know math. However, he was intelligent and he compensated for his illiteracy with his power of memorization, dogged hard work and a pleasant, kind demeanor.

A friend of Oher's with whom he was temporarily staying was applying for admission to a private Christian school and his friend encouraged him to apply also. At the time he applied to the school, Michael Oher was 6 feet, 5.5 inches tall and weighed 350 pounds. No lumbering hulk, he was agile and fast. The private school, private tutor and adopted family taught Oher how to learn and how to solve problems.

The consideration and encouragement he was given helped him grow into a stable, educated, culturally aware and remarkable NFL prospect. Likewise, Oher had a deep affect on his adopted family in the self-discoveries and growth they otherwise would have missed. And of course, in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft Oher was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens and eventually given a five-year, $13.8 million contract.

Sports and the life lessons embedded in hard work and dedication, do indeed pay off. "The Blind Side" movie is scheduled for release Friday staring Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates, Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher.

Here are some other highly recommended selections:

"Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen" by Joe Drape: If you enjoyed "Friday Night Lights," then this compelling book is for you, and it will probably be among the books you benefit the most from this year. Smith Center, Kan., is in the heart of America, and is so rural and remote it is 90 miles from a McDonald's restaurant. The individual stories of the coach, players and community will touch your heart.

"Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend" by Larry Tye: The phenomenal baseball pitcher Satchel Paige is done justice by Tye in this book. Dusty Baker, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, had this to say about the book:

"Having known Satchel when I was a young ballplayer, I'm reminded of the man who took over the game with both his superior pitching and his dynamic personality. This book is a must-read that captures the essence of one of the greatest legends in baseball history." Ginny Marshall is branch manager at the St. Helena Branch of the Beaufort County Public Library, located at 1025 Sea Island Parkway, St. Helena Island.