Tag Archives: University of Mississippi

Blind Sided

27 Feb

The Blind Side is a movie based on the real story of Michael Oher, a young African-American who is adopted into a wealthy Memphis family. Through their support, he blossoms into a great football player who goes on to success in college and the National Football League. It is a movie about the goodness of people and about what can happen when someone gets a little help along the way. It is a movie that makes the audience feel good about the world. It is a movie that everyone in my family likes.blind-side

Except me.

That situation has led to arguments. It has led people to think that I am cold-hearted. It has led to statements like “How can you not like The Blind Side?”

Well, let me explain how.

I was initially turned off by the main character played by Sandra Bullock, who hates the University of Tennessee. Why would I want to watch a movie where they talk smack about the team that I like? That makes no sense to me.

For a long time, that was my reason for not liking The Blind Side. However, people did not accept that, and my argument had to be strengthened. That is when I started looking into the story a little more carefully.

Before I get into that, there is something else that I need to explain. I am not a fan of any movie that takes real people and turns their story into a simple fairy tale. There are a ton of these movies out there, and they all make the same mistakes. Humans are complicated, and they have complicated stories. Turning those complicated stories into simple “feel good” narratives is not fair to the people being portrayed, and it is not fair to the audience. I am all for “feel good” movies. However, they are better told in the fictional world.

This does not even take into account the criticism this movie faced for being part of the “white savior” narrative. Those are the movies where white characters find out something about themselves by helping people of color who, according to the narrative, cannot help themselves. Some other movies that fit this are Cool Runnings, Dances With Wolves, Glory Road, Lawrence of Arabia and McFarland USA,

Now, here is the complicated tale of Michael Oher and the Tuohys, his adopted family.

The movie portrays Michael as a big poor kid who did not know how to do anything. Then, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy took him off the streets. That is when his football talent emerged.

In reality, he was an all-state football player and one of the top linemen in the nation who lived with several foster families. The Tuohys were one of those families, and they adopted him.

This is where my cynicism shows through, but first I will say this. I am sure that the Tuohys cared for Michael. After all, they are real people with real feelings. However, it did not hurt that he was a great football player. Why did that not hurt? Because the Tuohys were huge boosters of the University of Mississippi. Mr. Tuohy played basketball for Ole Miss and worked as an announcer on basketball radio broadcasts. Mrs. Tuohy was a cheerleader at the school.

This is where the arguments ensue. Others say that his football ability had nothing to do with the adoption. I say that I have seen a lot of crazy stuff in Southeastern Conference football recruiting. Adopting a great football player is a good way to pass benefits to the player in a legal way, and some people will go to any length to do that. Heck, Memphis is one of the most notorious cities when it comes to questionable recruiting tactics.

Anyway, huge Ole Miss boosters adopt one of the nation’s top high school football players, and he ends up going to Ole Miss. It caught the attention of the NCAA.

Members of my family read this blog, and this post may lead to more heated discussions about The Blind Side. So, why am I bringing it up? Here is why.

This week, the NCAA announced that Ole Miss lacked institutional control when it came to football recruiting. There are violations after violations. People are wondering what punishment they will receive. People are also wondering what will happen to Hugh Freeze, the head football coach who oversaw some of this activity.

Do you know where Hugh Freeze used to be the football coach?

Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis.

Do you know who was one of his best players?

Michael Oher.

Do you know how he got into college coaching?

He was hired at Ole Miss 20 days after Michael Oher signed the papers to play at the school.

I am sure that The Blind Side is a good movie about good people. Heck, Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for her portrayal. I am also sure that Michael Oher would not be where he is today without the influence of the Tuohys. However, there is more to the story than this simplified version, and I wish that was the movie that had been made.

The One About Erwin Rommel Riding a Motorcycle Through Tennessee

23 Sep

I was flipping through the channels and found a documentary about Erwin Rommel. I watched it for a few minutes but eventually lost interest. My mental quota for documentaries about Nazi Germany has been filled for a while. However, the documentary brought to mind a story from long ago.

When I was a kid, I heard that, before World War II, Rommel traveled to Tennessee a studied the military tactics of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a southern cavalry general who operated in these parts.

Yes, I was the kind of kid who found that kind of story interesting. I was the kind of kid who knew who those people were.

Anyway, the story continued with proof. Apparently, there was an old hotel register in Waverly, Tennessee that had Rommel’s signature.Rommel

Through the years, I have thought about this story and never questioned it. I have told people about it. Heck, I have even mentioned it in class. However, I never thought about digging into it and finding out what happened….until last night.

I typed a bunch of stuff into Google about Erwin Rommel, Tennessee and Nathan Bedford Forrest. I did not find much, and I began to worry. If he was around here, then something would be written about it. The only thing I could find was an article called Second Guessing the Past – The Desert Fox and Mississippi at hottytoddy.com. For those who do not know, “Hotty Toddy” is a cheer at the University of Mississippi, which will not make my colleague from Mississippi State University all that happy.

I encourage you to read the linked article, but I need to offer a synopsis. The writer traveled to West Tennessee to track down a story that he had always heard about Rommel visiting the state. People told him stories of seeing Rommel riding a motorcycle and talking to him on their front porches. The memories of these sightings were as vivid as if they had just happened.

He found out that Rommel was in Clinton, Tennessee and signed a hotel register. The hotel, which no longer exists, even placed a plaque on the room where he stayed. It was called the “Rommel Room.”

After visiting Clinton and talking to people who met Rommel, the writer visited Manfred Rommel and asked him about his father’s trip to the United States. It turns out that Rommel never made the journey. The son was told the stories of people who met his father, but he insisted that his father never traveled to Tennessee.

Reading, the article will provide you with a better sense of the story, but chances are that Rommel was never in this state. The story that I was told and repeated never happened. Heck, the story I heard was wrong about the town. However, it makes me wonder about memory and legends and all sorts of things that historians have to deal with.

People were convinced that they met Erwin Rommel and were convinced of a signed register proved it. Did they make it up? Did they tell the story long enough that they started to believe it? Did they actually meet a German officer who was riding around on a motorcycle? If so, then who was he? Did he introduce himself as Rommel? Since Rommel did not become famous until World War 2, why would meeting him before the war be considered a big deal? Did they meet a traveling German and assume it was Rommel after they started hearing his name?

It is a simple story, but it leads to question after question after question. I only know that it is a story I have heard for years, and it is one that a lot of people believe. It is even mentioned in The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, which is a good site because I have an article on there. It would be nice to know its origins and how it came to be thought of as fact.

That would make a better documentary than the one that I turned off.