Bo Jackson built electrifying careers in both football and baseball. Do you know Bo? If not, watch the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary You Don't Know Bo -- and read this column, of course.
Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball. Do you know Bo?
If you're under the age of 35, you may have heard the name Bo Jackson, but have no idea just what a huge figure he was when he became the most talked about athlete of his time. Jackson did things on both the football field and baseball diamond that made you question whether what you just saw actually happened. Whether it was running over big-mouth linebacker Brian Bosworth or throwing out Harold Reynolds on a line from just about the furthest point on the field from home plate, Bo Jackson was amazing.
If you're not familiar with Bo, you need to watch the latest ESPN 30 for 30 production You Don't Know Bo, which airs Saturday, December 8 at 9:00 p.m. eastern on ESPN immediately following the conclusion of the Heisman Trophy presentation.
"We thought it was a good time to tell this story." said ESPN Films executive producer John Dahl this week. "Bo just turned 50 last Friday. We're now 25 years removed from his famous game against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, one of the greatest single performances in Monday Night Football history, and we're 30 years now past Bo over the top in the Alabama‑Auburn game of '82. In an era of specialization and in an era of sophisticated marketing campaigns, we thought it was a fitting time to tell his story."
Film director Michael Bonfiglio notes that introducing a new generation to the feats of Bo Jackson was definitely something that crossed their minds. I remember I was talking to my 13‑ and 16‑year‑old cousins who are big sports fans and I was telling them that I was working on this film, and they'd never heard of Bo. And I talked to more people, people in their early 20s, and they'd never heard of Bo." He continues, "I think that there's an incredible enthusiasm for him by fans, but he ‑‑ I think if you know who he is, you assume everybody else does. But in actuality, I think because he is not in any of the Halls of Fame, he's not a record holder in very many areas, he is at risk of being forgotten a little bit, and I think that that was part of this film."
Happily, Jackson himself participated in this film, though the filmmakers stated that they would've made the film even without Jackson, as they felt compelled to tell his story.
Jackson is a little reticent when people have tried to label him a phenomenon. "I would never call myself that. I'm just being me. I think you all labeled me as that, or the phrase that most of my buddies, my teammates, used, a freak of nature. But the stuff that I was doing throughout college and through my short pro career, I was doing that when I was a teenager, when I was 12, 13, 14 years old. It was normal to me." He adds that the feats that shocked so many while he was on the national stage did not come as a surprise to those who knew him. "My people, my friends and people that I grew up with and parents of my friends, they would say, oh, we used to see him do that all the time. That's nothing new. And that was normal for me."
As for why he competed in multiple sports at the same time, "that was just a way to keep me out of trouble. Idle time with me is the devil's workshop, and if my mother was still alive, she would tell you."
Jackson's marvelous body eventually broke down, far sooner than it should have. A broken hip took his incredible athleticism away, and it was a loss for all fans. "What we really tried to do was really make you feel that injury and the tremendous loss that that was to the whole world of sports and fans and people who just loved Bo." says Bonfiglio. " I hope we succeeded in that."
Still, even after the injury Bo continued to amaze, becoming the first person to play Major League Baseball with an artificial hip, and even hitting a home run in his first at-bat after his return.
If you don't know Bo, you need to know Bo. Watch You Don't Know Bo.
Bruce Allen is a Media Columnist for SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @BruceAllen.