Vincent Edward Jackson. Remember him? You may know him better as Bo Jackson or, more simply, as Bo–he of the one-word name and all the fame associated with that kind of recognition.
Though his two-sport career was shortened by injury, his athletic prowess, when shown in black and white on the printed page, is almost too far-fetched to be believed.
Consider this–just a few months removed from college, he hit more than 25 homeruns and stole more than 25 bases for the Kansas City Royals. Not A, AA, or AAA, but the “Show,” the Major Leagues. One year later, when he decided to pick up professional football as a “hobby,” he starred for the Oakland Raiders, setting a record with two 90-plus yard touchdown runs in his first two seasons and gaining incredible yardage, even though each year he joined the team mid-season after taking 10 days to rest his body from the rigors of professional baseball. What? That’s incredible and/or insane.
The list goes on. Winner of the Heisman Trophy and the Walter Camp Trophy, Bo barely missed qualifying as a sprinter for the Olympic track team (less than one-tenth of a second off the pace). He was also drafted to play professional basketball for the fledgling American Basketball League.
Honestly. It sounds like a work of fiction, like something written by Matt Christopher and targeted towards eight- to 11-year-old boys stuck firmly in their sports-crazed stage of life.
What’s more interesting or, perhaps, telling, is that I had completely forgotten about Bo Jackson until I was called on to help my son with his fourth-grade book report. As only a good dad (and avid reader/editor) would do, I took a night to read my son’s book of choice, Bo Jackson, Playing the Games, by Ellen Emerson White.
Together, my son and I discussed the book’s portrayal of Bo’s life. From his upbringing in the small town of Bessemer, Ala., through his high school, college and professional careers (the book was written before Bo was injured), one theme kept popping up time and time again–“Bo knows” more than sports. Bo knows who he is and what he wants.
Here are but a few examples: The New York Yankees drafted Bo as a high school senior, but he chose to go to college and get a degree. Bo was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and offered over $7 million to play professional football, but he chose professional baseball for slightly more than $100,000 per year. Clearly, money wasn’t the driving force behind his life decisions.
When Bo did decide to play professional football two years later, the world (or at least the world portrayed by the popular media) was outraged. How would he ever realize his full potential playing two sports? Why not concentrate on one and be the best ever?
According to Bo, the answer was simple. His life was about exploring and enjoying his skills, not about setting records or leaving a legacy, which, in my mind, is the actual legacy he left—to be yourself, to live your life, to be your own man/woman. One could argue his attitude left him injured and unable to play professional sports, which it did, but I’m not sure one could argue it was the wrong decision. In dollars and cents, sure, but in terms of living his life, I don’t think so, though plenty of sportswriters and fans clearly disagree.
In any event, in this issue, we’ve tried to follow Bo’s lead. While it’s true that this is our annual aquatics issue, instead of coming at it from the same angle, we’ve tried to offer a variety of different perspectives and broadened our definition of aquatics to include lake maintenance and waterfront recreation.
It’s possible we’ve strayed too far afield. If that’s the case, please let us know. If not, and you decide you like the information, please let us know that as well.
We’re always looking to improve, and your feedback is vital.
Till next month,
Rodney J. Auth