Ardent Audible listener with a long commute!
In 2002, Bennet Omalu MD was the medical examiner on call when 'Iron Mike' Webster, a beloved former Pittsburgh Steeler and NFL Hall of Famer, died of a heart attack. Omalu is extremely well educated and trained - he has medical licenses in four states, and he has five board certifications. When he performed the autopsy, he noticed that Webster's medical notes said he'd been mentally deteriorating in the years before his death at 50. Omalu, who was working on a degree in Neuropathogy at the time, decided to preserve and examine Webster's brain.
Omalu grew up and Nigeria and found American Football mystifying. He has "no filters" (Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru's words, not mine); the subtlety of Lady Gaga; and the social grace of Sheldon Cooper of "The Big Bang Theory". Omalu found that Iron Mike had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Omalu's discovery triggered what's been an 11 year odyssey of denial; brains in the closet, marinating in formaldehyde; finger pointing; brains in the back of a Mercedes; a rheumatologist's (who said he was a graduate of SUNY Stony Brook, but actually went to Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara) attempts to discredit the research results of the best neuroscientists in world; brains of well loved players on slides; the NFL's conversion of "The Journal of Neurosurgery" into mouthpiece; and finally - maybe - the NFL's realization that multiple concussions can, and do, cause CTE. Omalu, like Cassandra, has been dismissed. If this were fiction, it would be a Michael Crichton novel written by that classic conspiracy theorist, John Munch (Law and Order: SVU, etc.). Unfortunately, it's very real.
I fall into the ESPN demographic 'average football fan', but Los Angeles hasn't had a professional team for 18 years, so that's understandable. I go to Monrovia High School Wildcats games, and catch some college and pro games on TV, but I'm no 'student of the game '. I was worried that I wouldn't understand what the Fainarus were talking about in "League of Denial: The NFL Concussions and the Battle for the Truth" (2013), but the football relevant to concussions was so well explained, someone who's never seen a game would understand the issues.
I had the same issue with this book that I did with Delores Kearns Goodwin's Pulitzer-prize winning "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" (2005). "League of Denial" is a great book, but it's not a great Audible book. So many of the 'players' (I mean doctors and scientists here) traded to other teams, I had trouble following who originally had what opinion, and when or why it changed, and who disdained who. I could have used an index, a roster, or - in some cases - a bank statement.
The Fainarus compare the NFL CTE denial to Big Tobacco, but isn't this worse? No one ever thought Phillip Morris was their friend, or spent hundreds of hours in practice and at games with Lorillard.
The Fainarus don't come to any conclusions personally, except that credible research makes it clear concussions2 (squared) = CTE = possible living hell, so terrible a player will suicide - but do so in a way that his brain is preserved to help others. What terrible, final grace.
I have a question, though: I'm a demographic, a 'Soccer Mom.' My daughter plays year round, and at her own request, (after a 13 year old teammate concussed after hitting the AstroTurf-over-cinders-over-cement ground, and sat out a month) wears a helmet. Does that help? Can I do more? The Fainarus make it clear that there's not a true answer to my question yet, even if the helmet manufacturer says so.
I thought the narration was good, and David H. Lawrence has a great voice for a football book. Or a Michael Connelly or Robert Crais thriller. However, there was a weird editing problem: in a couple of places, there was a sudden audio cutoff that made me think I had an incoming call.
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I'm not a big reader, just an engineer with a long commute. I purchased the book because I enjoyed reading "Moneyball" when my daughters played softball. The knowledge from the book helped in the coaching of my daughters, but also in the way I worked with others. I hoped "Blind Side" would do the same, while telling a great story about a loving family and a child, who needed a break.
The "Blind Side" starts with an understanding of how the game of football was changed by players like Lawrence Taylor. Whether you like football or not, this is a great story of how one person affects a system or an industry. LT forced coaches to give greater consideration to their individual offensive linemen, who previously had just been known for being big and heavy. Like "Moneyball", we learn how this simply inequity in the game was discovered and exploited. The change in the game set the stage for a young Memphis kid with a bleak future to become a national prospect.
The story of Michael Oher could be it's own book (and it is, now that he wrote an autobiography). Inside that wonderful story are great supporting characters, the Tuohy family. The book is far more honest about the intentions of everybody than the movie, and for that; it's worth the time to listen. You'll see how Leigh Anne is the key to Michael Oher in many ways, but the one story as remarkable as Michael is that of Sean Tuohy. That's a story hinted at, but never told in the book. What's for certain is Sean Tuohy truly believes in paying it forward. His willingness to help others is obvious, and I suspect part of the reason of his success. Certainly, it was a major part of Michael Oher's success.
As they say, the book is better than the movie, but this one is good even after seeing the movie. Perhaps its even better to see the movie first. If you liked the movie, and you read through this review; buy the book.