Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bo knows, or claimed to know, just about everything back in the day

Bo Jackson, the professional athlete whom marketing would have us believe was the best ever, is back in the public eye again.

Bo's Sox tale didn't last long enough
For Jackson, the man whom in the late 1980s played both for the Kansas City Royals AND the Los Angeles Raiders, is now saying he wishes he had never played football.

EVEN THOUGH HE was a Heisman Trophy winner in that sport and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame (Auburn University, where future White Sox star Frank Thomas also played a year of college football) who also played for the Raiders before injuring his left hip back in 1990 in a career-ending game that also caused the Royals to release him.

Leading to his comeback attempt of the early 1990s with the Chicago White Sox, where he wound up being a part of that division-winning team of ’93 where his power bat helped the team and also resulted in him winning a Comeback Player of the Year award.

Not so much because of his 16 home runs in 85 games as a designated hitter and spare outfielder, but because his injury was so severe it was a wonder he could even walk. The fact that he became a reliable role player on a White Sox team that nearly ended the team’s pennant drought some 12 years earlier than it actually ended was impressive.
Once a dual sports star

Of course, I’m not implying that a football-less Jackson would have somehow been the key to another championship ball club or two for the White Sox.

BECAUSE IT’S NOT likely the Royals ever would have got rid of him if he had remained physically sound and had the potential to be the star slugger that he was for a couple of years in Kansas City.
Gave up Sox for Knicks

As it turns out, Jackson is amongst the crowd of people who are now denouncing football because of its potential for severe head injuries that – even if not fatal – can leave one disabled for the remainder of their lives.

No matter how many helmets or how much padding is used, asking big guys to maul each other physically on the athletic field is always going to be a physically-risky endeavor.
Found athletic niche in Boston

As Jackson told the USA Today newspaper, “If I knew now what I had known back then, I would have never played football. I wish I had known about all of those head injuries, but no one knew that. And the people that did know that, they wouldn’t tell anybody.”

AS IT IS, every time Jackson makes a public appearance on behalf of the White Sox (he’s on the team payroll as an “ambassador” and also is an honorary coach who shows up in Arizona every spring for team workouts), it is a reminder of “what could have been.”

Particularly for those who remember that game against the Seattle Mariners when Jackson hit a three-run home run that would up winning the game, and the division title, for the White Sox that year.
Would you really rather ponder Hall chances?

I’ll have to admit my memories of the Jackson dual role in baseball and football always seemed freakish – even though there have been others who have tried multiple sports professionally.

Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics also played a couple of years with the Toronto Blue Jays, while back in the mid-1960s, White Sox pitcher Dave DeBusschere later went on to play for the New York Knicks.

BUT PERHAPS IT is the almost freakish nature of football (a game I must admit I never really ‘got’ even though I appreciate the role of the Chicago Bears in the city’s sporting culture – even in years when they go 3-13) that made the Jackson outcome seem inevitable.

So hearing now that Jackson wouldn’t let his own kids play football or be a part of the sporting spectacle that football creates at just about every level of its existence makes me wonder why Bo couldn’t “know” this fact two decades ago?

Could we be talking about the chance of Bo Jackson one of these years being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame instead of obsessing about whether one-time White Sox Tim Raines will finally get in this year, or whether Sammy Sosa of the Cubs will finally get kicked off the ballot due to all the steroid suspicions that surround his name.

At the very least, baseball bat manufacturers would have loved his presence in the National Pastime, remembering that moment in August of ’93 when he expressed frustration at being struck out by Oakland Athletics pitcher Bobby Witt by snapping his bat in two over his right knee.


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