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Every Time The Blind Side Lied To Us

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"The Blind Side" marked a surprise success for Sandra Bullock, becoming something of a cultural juggernaut, an Oscar-worthy contender, and is still cherished more than a decade later by many fans. Released in 2009 to mostly solid reviews and overwhelming box office success, the sports drama earned heaps of accolades for star Bullock, who won her first Academy Award for her fierce portrayal of real life Leigh Anne Tuohy.

As time has passed, viewers have come to learn not to take John Lee Hancock's production at face value. Though the film stays fairly close to the facts, the creators take many creative liberties with its source material. So much so that NFL star Michael Oher, whose inspiring life story serves as the central focus of the plot, has criticized the final product on numerous occasions, even writing a book that dispels the more sensational aspects of the film. 

Ultimately, "The Blind Side" gets more right than wrong. But, viewers seeking to discern fact from fiction are in luck, as below is a list of the times "The Blind Side" told audiences a bit of fiction over its 128-minute runtime.

Michael Oher's Personality

In "The Blind Side," Michael Oher, as played by Quinton Aaron, is a timid individual who says few words and mostly keeps to himself. He barely ever makes eye contact, walks with slouched shoulders and gets incredibly nervous in crowds.

In reality, Oher would indeed mostly keep to himself, as explained by Tony Henderson (aka Big Tony): "He was a good kid. He was real quiet and especially stayed to himself." However, the real Michael claims the film exaggerated this aspect of his personality, particularly when it came to his approach to the gridiron. In a 2010 interview with "20/20," the NFL star revealed that he wasn't as timid or shy as the film suggests, criticizing the scene in which Sandra Bullock's character has to step in during football practice in order to show him how to be aggressive on the field. 

"I've always had that fire and passion in me on the field," Oher said. "You can't put aggression into a person. It's impossible. Either you have that toughness and aggression or you don't."

Sean Junior had his own take on the matter, per a 2012 interview with The Baltimore Sun: "I think deep down, Mike is a comedian. When he gets into playing host and having people over, he'll get on a roll. He's not shy but he chooses his words carefully."

Michael Knew How to Play Football

The film depicts Michael as something of a football novice who requires some tough love from Leigh Anne — and jars of food from her son, Sean Junior — to understand the intricacies of the game.

In an interview with Yahoo Sports just before his appearance in the 2013 Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, Michael shot down that particularly preposterous story element. "I always knew how to play football growing up," he said. "Playing football is what got me to this point."

Contrary to the events of the film, Michael had participated in numerous sports before meeting the Tuohys. According to his book (via USA Today), Oher played varsity football for a Memphis high school in eighth grade. He was apparently lured to athletics after witnessing Michael Jordan in the 1993 NBA finals.

In regards to his portrayal in "The Blind Side," Michael takes exception to the character's slow-witted nature. "I'm not dumb," he said, "I just wasn't educated."

The Name of the School was Changed

Viewers of "The Blind Side" may be surprised to learn that the name of the school Michael attends was changed after administrators felt the movie took too much creative license in telling its story. Michael attends Wingate in the film; in actuality, he attended Briarcrest in Cordova, Memphis. The school's nickname has also been changed from the Saints to the Crusaders.

A minor detail, sure, but one worth pointing out, especially since school officials felt the need to make such a change. 

"We're very proud of Michael and we do not want our name not being used in the story to detract in any way from Michael and the core story," Briarcrest president Mark Merrill told Commercial Appeal

In the film, many of the teachers push back against Michael's admittance into the school due to his poor grades. Mrs. Boswell (Kim Dickens) is the only one who stands up for and helps the young man out — a notion dismissed by headmaster Steve Simpson, principal at Briarcrest when Michael arrived. If any teachers questioned what Oher was doing there, Simpson said, "they never did convey it to me." 

Also, contrary to the film, Michael wasn't immediately admitted into the school. Rather, according to Herald Weekly, Simpson had Michael participate in a home school program for a few months before formally accepting him into the institution.

Sean Tuohy Made Contact with Michael First

Contrary to the events of the film, Leigh Anne wasn't the first Tuohy to reach out and help Michael. In fact, it was her husband Sean that initially took to helping the young athlete out. According to an article about Michael Oher on Biography.com, Sean heard about Michael's predicament via his daughter Collins and set up a standing cafeteria account in order to help him eat. Up until that point, Michael had "couch-surfed at the homes of his fellow students and foster families for his first few years as school and played three sports — basketball, tack and field and football — before ever meeting the Tuohy clan in 2003."

Also, in a bizarre detail change, Sean noticed Michael sitting alone in the bleachers during a basketball practice and not while attending his daughter Collins' volleyball match, as in the film. In actuality, Collins has never played volleyball in her life, a factoid she revealed during a Common Hour at Evan N. Stevenson Ballroom in 2014. 

However, we should point out that Collins, in the same lecture, said she thought the film was "really accurate" outside of "a few minor mistakes."  

Leigh Anne's First Encounter with Michael was Much Different

Early in "The Blind Side," Leigh Anne and her family are driving home when they spot Michael walking alone in the rain. When asked where he's headed, the big guy quietly replies, "To the gym." The Tuohys continue their course before Leigh Anne orders her husband to turn around. After some back and forth reveals Michael has no place to stay for the night, Leigh Anne invites Michael to her home where he sleeps on the couch and quickly becomes part of the family.

In Michael Lewis' book "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game," things go a little differently and it's revealed the family spotted Michael as he stepped off a bus on a cold morning — dressed in shorts, no less — during Thanksgiving break. After asking where he's headed, Michael replies he's going to basketball practice. "Michael, you don't have basketball practice," says Sean. "I know," says the boy. "But they got heat there." 

The interaction leaves Leigh Anne in tears and prompts her to take Michael shopping the following day. Leigh Anne then dropped him off at his home in a really bad part of town. For the next several months, Michael slept at several different houses until Leigh Anne decided he would move in with her family full time. In February 2004, she bought him a futon and a dresser, laid down some rules and that was that. 

Michael Oher and Quinton Aaron's Physical Similarities

Michael's physical appearance is also drastically exaggerated in "The Blind Side." In Lewis' novel, the NFL star stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 344 pounds in high school. "No human being who moved that quickly could possibly weight as much as 300 pounds," football coach Hugh Freeze exclaims. "I didn't know whether he could play," Freeze continued. "But I knew this: we didn't have anyone like him on campus."

Michael's onscreen counterpart, Quinton Aaron, by contrast, is 6-foot-8 and weighs in at 472 pounds. He was 25 at the time of shooting.

Obviously, the filmmakers wanted to emphasize the character's size and strength in a larger-than-life way, presenting something akin to a lovable, gentle giant, but the physical different between the two is quite jarring. Especially since the real Michael Oher was described by the Baltimore Sun as "lean and muscular with a lower body-fat percentage," which made him ideal for the left tackle position.

Sean Junior is Much Different in Real Life

One of the more memorable aspects of "The Blind Side" is Jae Head's exuberant performance as Sean Junior. The young man sits in on recruitment meetings with coaches and negotiates his own personal deals with the likes of LSU coach Nick Saban, such as an all-access pass to his older brother — a detail that, believe it or not, actually happened. Though, according to the book, he didn't lead the team on the field, but instead received a tour of The Grove, a popular tailgating spot at Ole Miss. 

"Leverage with everyone," Sean said in an interview with ABC 7. "I wanted leverage on whoever it was, wherever it was. I was making sure there's an in for me there."

However, the real Sean wasn't quite as precocious as his onscreen counterpart. "Definitely not the same guy in the movie," Oher told The Baltimore Sun. "[He's] sharp, smart. Just a good all around kid, fun to be around. I had him and some of his teammates over and we watched the [NBA playoff] game and the [Manny Pacquiao -Timothy Bradley] fight. He definitely can handle it, very mature, very smart. You don't have to baby him or anything like that. He's definitely his own man." 

Michael Confronted Racism

"The Blind Side" mostly sidesteps any explorations of racism outside of a few brief exchanges, including one scene where a player on an opposing football team kicks Michael in the head and calls him a "fat, black piece of crap." This prompts Michael to retaliate by hilariously throwing the punk over a wall, to the joy of Leigh Anne and company. As it turns out, this moment (sort of) happened during a game between Briarcrest and Munford, during which Michael blasted a trash talking defensive end all the way down the field and past his own bench.  

However, the event wasn't prompted by racial slurs, according to the book. In fact, the only bit of racism Lewis discusses in his novel occurred during a basketball game at Myrtle Beach, where some unkind words were tossed Michael's way. "Big Mike responded badly," Lewis explains. "[John] Harrington hadn't seen this side of him. He began to throw elbows. Then he stopped on the court, turned on the fans, and gave them the finger." Luckily Harrington, much like coach Burt Cotton in the film, had his player's back and told the referees: "You can take care of this problem or Big Mike can take care of this problem. And I think it'll be a lot better for them and for you if you take care of it. Because he's gonna clean house."

Michael ended up scoring 27 points, securing 15 rebounds in the game. 

Collins Didn't Have to Defend Michael at School

Even as Michael becomes closer with his newfound family, the film points out his struggles to blend in at school and in public. In one scene, we see Collins abandon her friends to go sit with Michael in the school library. The moment marks a dramatic turn for the pair's relationship, as they come to form a strong bond that carries throughout the rest of the film.

According to a 2009 interview with Collins interview on Huckabee, her real-life relationship with Michael was never that complicated. "My friends were very open to Michael," Collins said. "They were very sweet to him and we all got along really well. His friends were always welcome in our house, because our house was his home." 

Collins was very open to studying with Michael to the point where, according to an interview with "20/20," she dropped all of her AP courses in order to assist him with his homework. 

Leigh was Never Taunted by Gang Members

One of the most memorable scenes of "The Blind Side" comes when Leigh Anne gets into a verbal scuffle with a local gang member. Looking for Michael, she is in his old neighborhood; she happens across Alton (IronE Singleton), a punk still hot from being slapped around by the football player.   

Alton, visibly upset after the confrontation, takes his anger out on Leigh Anne and even curses at her in a non-gentlemanly way. In retaliation, Leigh Anne threatens the young man and claims that anyone who messes with her family messes with her. Honestly, the moment is probably one of the reasons Sandra Bullock walked away with an Oscar. Problem is, as far as everyone can tell, no such moment occurred. Neither did Michael's dramatic confrontation with Alton. 

Another scene in which Michael tells Leigh Anne not to get out of the car is in fact true — but that seems to be as close to danger as the headstrong woman got during her time with Oher.

Similarly, Michael didn't fight anyone like Alton, but, according to the book, did engage with Ole Miss teammate Antonio Turner after he referred to him as a cracker for living with a white family. 

Michael Needed a Little More Help to Get Into College

In "The Blind Side," Michael works with a tutor (played by Kathy Bates) in order to get his grades up. Eventually, he passes his courses and gets into Ole Miss, much to the delight of his adopted family. 

As it turns out, Michael's journey was a bit more ... complicated. The rising football prospect incurred a bit of controversy when he used an independent study program at BYU to improve previous grades. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, Michael did indeed achieve better grades during his senior year in high school, but didn't have a high enough cumulative GPA to qualify for the NCAA, the result of poor marks in his first three years. 

To bypass this hurdle, Michael took online courses at BYU that effectively replaced F's on his transcript with A's. And while some are critical of this method, with EW's Mark Harris dubbing it "an NCAA eligibility trick" due to the nature of the classes — some of which allegedly require reading a few brief passages from famous works and answering a handful of questions — BYU maintains the validity of this particular brand of education.

In response to Harris' article, Dwight Laws, director if Independent Study at BYU, explained: "The article was unfair and incomplete. These are rigorous courses that can't be done overnight."

Such details may have hampered the film's cozy ending, but are still worth noting as part of Michael's amazing journey. 

Oher never got in a scuffle with an NCAA investigator

After Sandra Bullock regales us with a brief explanation on the importance of a left tackle, "The Blind Side" cuts to a brief scene in which Michael nervously sits at a table in a large room. A woman asks ] if he knows why she's there and the young man replies, "to investigate?" Later, we see the whole scene play out, learning the woman is an NCAA investigator named Jocelyn Granger who finds Michael's predicament more than a bit questionable. In her mind, the Tuohys brought Michael in, fed him and paid for his education in order to ensure he took his talents to the University of Mississippi. She grills the young man, while Leigh Anne waits outside helplessly. 

In reality, Michael was indeed investigated by a woman named Joyce Thompson, but not in the hostile manner depicted in the film. The meeting took place at his home, with Sean alongside him. In fact, according to The Insider, Leigh Anne wasn't even present for the occasion.

The Tuohys never actually adopted Michael

Perhaps the most damning revelation about the true story behind "The Blind Side" is one that was kept a secret from Oher himself. In August 2023, the retired NFL star filed a petition in Shelby County, Tennessee probate court, alleging that he was never legally adopted into the Tuohy family. Instead, what he thought was an adoption agreement that he signed at age 18 was actually a conservatorship that allowed Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy to make business decisions on Oher's behalf, but afforded him no legal rights as a member of the family. What's more, while the Tuohys' Hollywood deal has earned them millions over the years, Oher was apparently subject to a separate agreement that gave away his likeness and life story "without any payment whatsoever," according to the petition (per ESPN). 

Oher had his own lucrative career as a pro football player and author, and according to the petition didn't see the need at the time to delve further into his foster family's finances. Though he bristled at the way he was portrayed in "The Blind Side," for years he felt that the good things engendered by his inspirational life story outweighed his own discomfort. That feeling apparently came to an end in February 2023, when he discovered the truth of his conservatorship. Oher's petition seeks an end to the agreement, an immediate halt to the Tuohys' use of his name and life story, and a full accounting of the money they have made in his name for the last two decades.