On a recent morning, in a nationally known paper of record whose identity I won't divulge (but it rhymes with "All Skeet Normal"), I read what is quite possibly the most superficial book review ever written, consisting 50% of quotes pulled directly from the pages of Michael Lewis' latest work, The Blind Side. How bad was it, you ask? Bad enough to inspire this Foolish writer to pen his first book review in 20 years, in an attempt to set things right.
But before I begin, I beg forgiveness for this unconventional review. If "The Normal's" review typifies the way these things are usually written, then I'm guessing you'll be able to get a digested (regurgitated?) view of Lewis' book from any number of sources. For my part, I'd rather focus on what lies between the lines of The Blind Side.
Black and white
At the most superficial level, this is a story in black and white. Black words, white paper. Black inner-city teenager Michael Oher and the white, affluent, suburban Tuohy family who took him under their wing. It's a story of how Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy adopted Michael Oher, gave him a home, paid his way through a private high school in the Memphis, Tenn., suburbs, educated him in all the things that the public school system had failed to, and helped him -- with no small help from his own massive size and preternatural athletic ability -- win a football scholarship and admission to the University of Mississippi.
The grays in between
But to this Fool's mind, that's only the surface story. And compelling as it is from a human-interest standpoint, there'd be little reason to mention the book on Fool.com but for the investing lesson that Lewis teaches us, slipped in between the lines.
Speaking of which, longtime readers of the Fool won't be surprised to see the name Michael Lewis and the phrase "investing lesson" in the same sentence. Lewis began his professional life as a bond trader at Salomon Brothers. Three years ago, Fool alum Zeke Ashton profiled Lewis' Moneyball, which explained how Oakland A's manager Billy Beane used inefficiencies in the market for professional baseball players to build a winning team on the cheap.
In The Blind Side, Lewis turns his attention to another sport entirely, but his inner trader doesn't fail to provide us an investing lesson in the process. The hero of the new book, you see, is a 6'6", 322-pound football prodigy, the archetype for the position of left tackle -- the offensive lineman most responsible for keeping the quarterback alive. And why did Lewis choose to write about an archetypal left tackle, rather than a prototypical tight end or running back? Because with the exception of the quarterback, the NFL left tackle has become the highest-paid position on the field.
Breaking the rules of football
Over the course of 299 pages of masterful prose, Lewis describes how this came to be -- how the occupants of this once-fungible lineman position became the second-most-expensive players in football. And in the process, he introduces a stealth superhero to his book: former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Lewis describes Taylor as "a new kind of athlete doing a new kind of thing. All by himself, Lawrence Taylor altered the environment and forced opposing coaches and players to adapt. After Taylor joined the team, the Giants went from the second-worst defense in the NFL to the third best." As a true rule breaker, it was LT's force-of-nature crushing of opposing quarterbacks that made the men whose job was stopping him -- men like Michael Oher -- so valuable.
Breaking the rules of business
An LT arrives in football only once every few years, but in business and investing, we see similar rule-breaking stories all the time. Case in point: movies. Once upon a time, "moving picture shows" could only be seen in movie theaters. Then came Sony and its Betamax cassette tapes, and JVC and its VHS, and presto -- the rules changed. Now movies could be seen at home. Almost instantly, a new form of business was born -- the video rental store. In time, it evolved into Blockbuster
The next rule breaker
The business player that can defeat Netflix hasn't yet arrived, and maybe it never will. After all, Washington coach Joe Gibbs had to assign multiple players to stop the threat from LT. Similarly, it might take the efforts of multiple companies to beat Netflix's business model: Best Buy
What is certain is that companies will keep trying to beat threats like the one Netflix poses. And whenever a firm figures out how to do it, a Rule Breaker will be formed -- a company whose stock, like the pay of an NFL left tackle, will rise higher and faster than anyone expects. At Motley Fool Rule Breakers, it's our mission to identify the MVPs of tomorrow -- the unlikely, unknown future superstars, the 6'6", 322-pound prodigies who will dominate the investing game for years to come. Preferably, we're going to find them while they're still rushing at Wall Street's own blind side. To take a peek at the ones we've found so far, just click here.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. If he did, The Motley Fool would require him to tell you so. We're sticklers about things like that . Netflix , Amazon, and Best Buy are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value pick. IMAX is a Rule Breakers selection.