For those of us of the right age, we can look back and see a bright light that still flickers in the distance. It’s a light that once shined so brilliantly that you almost couldn’t believe you were seeing it. There are few true super stars in sports and only one that was a super star in two sports. We may never see one like Bo Jackson ever again and unfortunately he may one day himself be forgotten.
I took the time to watch something that had been sitting in my Netflix queue for quite some time. Something that I had always wanted to see by never wanted to watch. ESPN’s 30 for 30 series did a show “You Don’t Know Bo”. Being a Raiders fan and knowing what happened to Bo Jackson made me not want to see this because it is a tale of a great career cut short. When I did watch the show those feelings of sadness and questions of “what if” came as expected but was also came was a sense of one man’s true greatness and what we really saw in him. Bo Jackson was a great athlete by nothing other than what he was given at birth. What you find out is that he was a great man because of his up bringing and life off the field. Even when his career was cut short and taken from him, he shows no bitterness or resentment. No more perfect than the rest of us, he has dealt with everything in life the best he can. It’s now been almost twenty years since he last played professionally but he has carried on.
What struck me most was the thought that one day Bo Jackson may not be remembered. As great an athlete as he was, he did not play long enough to likely be elected to either sport’s hall of fame. In fact the only individual accomplishment he has is his Heisman trophy. The most he may be remembered for is his “Bo Knows” ad campaign with Nike. There was no other athlete in memory that was as captivating as he was and doing it in two sports made it even more special. It’s easy to say Michael Jordan was the best in basketball in his time. It’s easy to say Wayne Gretzky was the best hockey player of his time. You may even get away with saying Lawrence Taylor was the best of his time. Today you can argue who is the best in these same sports: LeBron James for basketball, Sidney Crosby for hockey, and Adrian Peterson for football. These are all argumentative if they are the best but none of the people I named did it in two sports. Others have tried, Deion Sanders on of the more notable, but have never had the same success or notoriety.
What we are left with are highlight reels and memories. For people who saw Bo Jackson play, either in person or on television, we speak of his plays as if they were legend. We look back at these flashes of light and stare into them to ignite our memories. Bo tearing off the long run down the side line. Bo powering the baseball over the crowd. Bo flying through the air against Alabama. Then we are left to lament as our eyes draw away from the light and our hearts dim thinking of what may have been. One play, one tackle, no different from any other took him from us. We feel bad that we didn’t get to see more huge hits or long runs so selfishly. Bo Jackson has moved on with seemingly less remorse than we have.
We may never know what Bo knows. Maybe what Bo really knows is something greater than what Nike could ever let on. If you want to have some semblance of what Bo may know, watch this 30 for 30 on Netflix.