Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nike To Honor Bo - Your Last Ball Player

If you weren't around in the late 80's early 90's to see one of the best, if not thee best, athlete to ever play professional sports, then you are missing a crucial era of evolution in the world of sports.  Not only was it an era of the super athlete the likes of Michael Jordan, but the marketing of these athletes as mega-stars had just taken off.  It was also a time where twenty-four hour sports news and highlights became available via ESPN year around. In 1987, ESPN gained partial rights to the National Football League.

In a newly evolving sports culture at that time, sneakers and other sports apparel were making star athletes celebrities while pulling in big bucks from signature products.  It was when nike became NIKE and the swoosh became internationally recognized as a pro brand. 

The super athlete who began it all was no other than the Raiders own Bo Jackson.  Bo actually didn't belong just to the Raiders, as a multi-sport athlete he had fans in baseball as well as from his track days at Auburn.  But it was football and baseball that put Bo on the sports map, wowing fans and rocking the foundations of professional sports. Imagine a professional baseball player during the off season playing running back in the NFL as a Hobby! A Freakin Hobby!

Bo Jackson had such athletic ability that even today sports analysts and historians say their is no precedent to the feats Bo accomplished in such a short time. We're all left to wonder what could've been had his football career lasted longer.

The documentary I just watched on Bo was an important reminder of not only who Bo was, but what his arrival onto the sports scene at that time meant.  Bo was a physical specimen that a sports Darwin would have marveled over.  There had never been someone that size with the speed and athleticism to do what he did.  The closest was American Indian Jim Thorpe, a 1912 olympic gold medalist and charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The great negro league baseball player Buck Leonard compared Bo's mighty swing to Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson based on ball hitting sound and distance.

Bo came along and changed everything we thought we knew about running a football and hitting or catching a baseball.  Just to give you a little taste of Bo, at the combine he ran a 4.12 40-yard dash time (officially hand timed). He didn't leave behind record stats in either pro sport, but the clips that show his unbelievable athleticism on the field put him in rare company. Interesting that in the documentary its pointed out that it was a good thing steroids wasn't around at the time or surely Bo was of been accused of doping.  It would've been the only way to explain his feats on the field.

Bo's football career ended on a hip injury from a tackle that at the time seemed freakish. Now we know it was Bo's super speed that was the key contributor to the injury he sustained.  And yet he came back with a replaced hip to play major league baseball a few more seasons, the only athlete ever to play any professional sport with a hip replacement. 

Bo has many firsts in professional sports.  The 30 for 30 segment on Bo is one I'm glad to have finally caught. With Nike bringing back a rendition of the "Bo Knows" campaign, it seems almost a duty for us Raiders fans both old and new, to acquaint or reacquaint ourselves with Bo.  If you thought you knew Bo, after watching this segment you'll realize you might've missed something.

 Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson
 Raiders (1987–1990)
 "We Salute You"

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