One thing you hear a lot about the great HBO series The Wire is some variation on "it ruined all other cop shows for me." And it's true. The Wire was so smart about policework, so painfully realistic without sacrificing drama, that it made damn near everything else, with the obligatory gun-and-badge-scene clichés and pat little whodunnits, seem downright silly; ridiculous. Creators and writers David Simon and Ed Burns called the bluff of an entire genre. They stripped away the Hollywood varnish and made their peers look goofy, clueless, like so many deer staring at headlights.
Michael Lewis's The Blind Side isn't quite like that, but it's close. Certainly I will henceforth have trouble restraining gales of laughter at the naiveté of football movies about scrappy underdog quarterbacks who overcome the odds and lead their teams to victory. Or about the glory of college football. Or about players who make it to the NFL through sheer pluck and determination.
Even more so than The Wire to lame cop dramas, The Blind Side is an explicit rebuke to such stories. Straight up, Lewis (who also wrote Moneyball) says: it doesn't work that way. First of all, the quarterback isn't even that important. A coach with a handle on strategy and talent elsewhere on the roster, can, within reason, make damn near anyone look good throwing the ball. Second: who makes it to the NFL is determined, 99% of the time, not by persistence and heart, but by genetics. Size. Much more than you might think, shape. Innate athleticism that cannot be taught or learned. Depressingly, the selection process for great football prospects often resembles a state fair where people admire the girth and gait of cattle and "hmm" and point thoughtfully.