Blindsided? Only By Reality.

I really love the movie THE BLIND SIDE; indeed, among the few moments of happiness I had during the earliest days of the pandemic was the comfort and eye candy that seeing Sandra Bullock in a tight skirt portraying what we believed was a saint in Leigh Anne Touhy, who with the help of her football-obsessed husband Sean and the support of her debutante daughter Collins saved the soul and talent of one Michael Oher to the extent where he ultimately became a first round NFL draft pick was a time investment I was eager to make over and over again.  Football AND Sandra Bullock?  Sign me up!!

I emphasize the words what we believed because, as we learned this week, even the most grounded fictional works aren’t always reality.  Sandra Bullock may have been wigged and glammed out enough to be a doppelganger for Leigh Anne, and breakout newcomer Quentin Aaron clearly channeled the real Oher brilliantly.  But it wasn’t what actually happened, at least according to Oher.  As the NEW YORK POST’s Mike Rosenstein recapped:

Michael Oher claims the Tuohy family made millions off their conservatorship of him after the Hollywood blockbuster “The Blind Side”(…) Oher claims in the petition filed Monday Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy tricked him into signing over the legal authority to use his name in business deals after he turned 18 and proceeded to make millions in royalties from the Oscar-nominated film, “The Blind Side,” while he received nothing.

The real Tuohys are indeed exceptionally wealthy.  As Anita Goswami wrote on MEAWW.COM last week, with a penchant for optimizing what appeals to the common folk into would certainly earn them status among the Hollywood elite:

Sean Tuohy’s estimated net worth for the year 2023 is an impressive $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. His wealth has primarily been amassed through his roles as a sports commentator and restaurateur. The site claims he has ownership of over 100 restaurants. 

Sean reportedly owned approximately 115 franchise locations for brands like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s, and KFC at one point alongside his wife. Over time, they sold the majority of these franchises through multiple transactions.

Sean’s career as a sports commentator has also contributed significantly to his success. He has been involved with institutions like Ole Miss and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. 

Leigh Anne Tuohy’s net worth is also an impressive $50 million, matching her husband’s. Their combined net worth reaches a remarkable $100 million.

Leigh Anne is known as an American businesswoman and interior designer. She gained recognition as a member of the design team on the reality TV series ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’, which aired on ABC.

But at Rosenstein reminded, Oher wasn’t exactly crying poverty lately, either.

Oher signed a total of four contracts during his eight-year NFL career.

Spotrac and Over the Cap are a pair of leading websites which track salaries of individual athletes and payrolls of professional sports teams.

The two sites each added up Oher’s career earnings, and while their numbers are off slightly, they both concluded the former first-round draft pick made more than $34 million in the NFL.  Spotrac puts it at $34,506,875 while Over the Cap’s number is $34,170,000.

So we have a grown adult, whose net worth based upon those earnings  should at least put him in the same 1% as either of the other two grown adults he is suing, making a whole lotta noise and plenty of lawyers rich.

Not exactly a Hollywood-worthy script.

Oher is now 37, seven years removed from an NFL career that despite some early promise, including a Super Bowl title with the Ravens, ended prematurely when injuries curtailed an attempted comeback with the Carolina Panthers after a disastorous season as a rejected free agent signing with, surprise, his adopted home state team’s Tennessee Titans.

Wonder if Tuohy, the media mogul of Memphis who would be quick to chastise the underperforming Grizzlies during his blah tenure with FOX Sports Tennessee, had some constructive criticism for his SON, or perhaps threw someone who perhaps his addiction and devotion to his beloved alma mater Ole Miss that no longer served that purpose to build up his brand that got him that kind of gig despite little experience beyond that of an average fan?  A brand that likely helped the real Ms. Tuohy to be elevated to a co-star role on the same network that was airing shows being executive produced by the woman who won an Oscar portraying her?

And while our “victim” Oher’s story is a telling one that points out the fragility and unpredictability of pro football, one can’t help ask what might have happened to the $34-ishM he, unlike so many other less successful NFL retirees, was able to earn, largely based upon the name recognition he brought to the table, especially in the later portion of his mediocre career?

Surely entrepreneurs and parents as loving as the Tuohys purportedly were could have steered him in better directions?  Perhaps even spared a franchise or two of their own ?  Perhaps Oher might have capitalized on his own fame to glom onto a Popeye’s or Chick-Fil-A?  It doesn’t look like he’s missed many meals, nor been all that rigorous in his diet.

I mean, even Joe Biden and Fred Trump qualify as more generous and endearing parents.

Amazingly, people who have been following this unfold have been clamoring for Bullock to somehow speak out.  The fact that she’s in the process of burying her longtime partner Bryan Randall, who recently passed away after a three-year battle with ALS, seems to have been forgotten by many.  And honestly, I’d suspect Sandy might not have much good to say about either side in this megillah.

So I’ll save her the trouble.

Oher should be grateful he even got the chance for an NFL career, regardless of the “exploitation” that the Tuohys employed to give him the ability to be noticed.  And the Tuohys should thank their lucky stars that enough high up people believed their bullshit long enough to give them more than enough FU money to last them and their family for several generations.

Here’s how Rosenstein reported this has all played out this week:

On Tuesday, the Tuohys said through their lawyers that Oher had threatened before filing the petition to plant a negative news story about them unless they paid him $15 million.

On Wednesday, word broke the family plans to end its conservatorship of Oher.

Attorneys for the Tuohys estimated that each family member, including Oher, received $100,000 as a result of the film, adding that the couple paid taxes on his portion for him.

“Michael got every dime, every dime he had coming,” Tuohy family lawyer Randall Fishman said.

So I guess they’re not going be doing photo ops together soon?

A shame, since with the 15th anniversary of the film coming next year, and the appetite among the current crop of creatives to revisit IP, there might have been some world where an update–a completely fictional one, given the lack of reality attached to the one that was the original’s inspiration–might have been possible.

Indeed, as a provocative piece by THE LOS ANGELES TIMES’ Steve Almond reminded, the movie itself was based on a book by a prominent author who indeed conflated the truth in the first place:

In 2006, Michael Lewis wrote an enthralling bestseller, “The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game,” in which he related the story of Michael Oher, an athletically gifted Black teenager who grew up in poverty before being adopted by a wealthy white family who helped guide his path to NFL stardom.

The saga of Michael Oher, as told by Lewis, always read like a fantasia, one intended to put the gloss of white saviorhood on a set of events that smacked of racial exploitation.

As I wrote in a review for this newspaper at the time, “The essential message of his book is that poor black children matter, are worth saving, not because of the content of their characters or minds, but because of their physical prowess. Like most fans — myself included — Lewis prefers not to notice the prejudices that belie our lust for sport, the perverse arrangement by which watching young black men engaged in violent spectacle has become our most profitable form of entertainment.

The most astonishing aspect of the Oher story is that virtually no one who read the book, or saw the movie, chose to recognize this perversity. Or rather, it was briefly acknowledged by Lewis and his subjects — and then totally disregarded.

Perhaps there’s at least a true crime documentary that can be salvaged from this.  Frankly, given the current state of need for compelling unscripted content, I’d be surprised if the Tuohys or the Oher camp aren’t already pursuing this route.

But you can forget any thought of a scripted sequel, because we’ve already seen this story played out under another title.


As should be this story about equally opportunisitic and entitled liars all.



Share This Article