Friday, January 13, 2012


Twenty-one years ago today, the greatest athlete I ever saw became the former greatest athlete I ever saw. Bo Jackson suffered that horrible hip injury in the NFL Divisional Playoff Game and was never the same.

I was on the Bo Knows fanwagon. I had his cards. I had those Nike cross-trainers. I couldn't wait for the next commercial. Remember the first inning of the '89 All-Star Game when Bo went deep as Ronald Reagan helped call the action?

Watching Superman lose his powers was sad. Watching Superman save the day was scintillating. I saw Bo several times in spring training in what was then called Baseball City (actually Davenport, Fla.), about an hour east of Tampa.

I remember two highlights from two different games. In one, he swung late, sending a drive into the right-field corner. Normally, that's a double. On this day, it was a bit more. When he hit first base, you knew he wasn't stopping until he got to third. Sure enough, in what seemed like a nano second, he was sliding ahead of the throw. The crowd went crazy.

In another, he simply hit a ball to left-center over the scoreboard and deep into the parking lot, crashing off a few cars. It was the highest and longest homer I've seen in person. I was hoping when I went to my car I'd find the ball and/or a dent. 

While his football highlights were pretty impressive (get out of my way, Mr. Bosworth), his raw baseball skills made you wonder: How good would he be if he gave up football and really learned the game?  In a cruel twist, the injury forced Bo to choose. Being a two-sport icon can have its drawbacks.

With a new hip, Bo did well making it back to the majors, but watching him limp made me wince. I still hoped he could somehow recapture the magic on the diamond. Bionic Bo. Imagine the commercials.

Superman can't fly with a replacement cape.

Away from the field, I respected how Jackson eased into retirement, fulfilling a promise to his mom to get his bachelor of science degree from Auburn. That didn't surprise me. There always seemed more to Bo than his commercials and athletic feats suggested.

I miss Bo. I miss him running and banking off outfield walls, gunning down runners on the fly and breaking bats over his helmet. I even miss his misses. And, of course, his swings. 

Bo sure knew how to put on a show.


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