LOS ANGELES — I collected posters as a kid. I did a lot of things as a kid, but posters were my thing (and baseball/basketball cards; remember those days?). Whenever my family would head out to K-Mart or Roses or any place I knew sold them, the rack was the first place I went. I’d flip past at rocket speed until something caught my eye and stopped me dead in my tracks; usually it was a fast-looking car or a girl in a bikini but if there was one of Michael Jordan or Ken Griffey, Jr. they’d get my admiration, too. But hands down my favorite poster of all-time is of Bo Jackson.
You know the one. Bo standing there in a blue and black locker room. It’s just him surrounded by his equipment: helmet, bat, shoulder pads, glove, cleats, balls, jackets. There’s even a guitar and hockey stick, leftover from the Nike “Bo Knows” commercial, no doubt. It’s dark, there’s some smoke at the bottom and just the perfect amount of light shining on his Adonis physique. “BLACK & BLUE” the title read. I still have it at my mom’s house. Somewhere. Packed away. Of another generation, it seems. Much like Bo’s playing days.
Late November, Bo Jackson turned 50-years old. He last tore up the gridiron with his God-like power and speed nearly 22 years ago. People I work with don’t remember ever watching him play, only knowing him from throwback Tecmo Bowl games and stories of his freak-like strength and power. A super hero for the 8-bit generation. Last Friday, ESPN aired its latest “30 for 30” and profiled the man, myth and legend that was Bo Jackson. The athlete and the human, and it did not disappoint. For me, it was an amazing trip down memory lane. A time when I still viewed athletes as mythical beings who could do no wrong; statues of muscle and brawn who mashed home runs and scored touchdowns with ease, men who I wanted to be and replicated their every movements in my back yard.
“You Don’t Know Bo” starts from the beginning, at Bo’s home in Bessemer, Alabama and continues chronologically from high school, through Auburn and to the Royals and Raiders, his tragic hip injury, the comeback and then skips to now, with Bo in his man cave making arrows (like for a compound bow) and showing off his big game taxidermy.
The hour-long doc was filled with people from Bo’s past telling stories about what they remembered about him, from his high school football and baseball coaches, former Auburn head coach Pat Dye, Royals teammates George Brett and Mark Gubicza, Raiders teammate Howie Long and various sports journalists, including pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman. Of course, Jackson himself was prevalent in the doc, recalling the moments as they were presented.
A few of my favorite stories in no particular order: Bo saying as a kid he used to have crab apple fights with the other children in his neighborhood and he always won, even one time throwing the apples through screen doors at kids who thought just because they went inside the house they were safe from his wrath; Bo’s high school football coach on the day he was hired asking about the “maintenance man” by the field who turned out to be Bo; him choosing to go to Auburn because Dye went himself rather than sending his assistants and called him Vincent; his college baseball coach talking about hitting a ball over the center field green monster and to the base of a building 150 feet away; Bo recalling why exactly he ran into the tunnel at the Kingdome after his 91-yd touchdown run (he didn’t want to pull a hamstring trying to stop before the wall); Bo’s lead-off homerun in the 1989 All-Star Game and the great footage of him running up the wall and breaking a bat over his knee; remembering all the Nike commercials and, of course, the Tecmo Bowl montage.
I was so jacked up for the Bo doc last week, I nearly bought a pair of his old cross trainers on eBay, except I’m probably the only person in 2012 who has never used the other-people’s-trash collecting site so I wasn’t quite sure how to procure them. It also got me thinking about the time when I was 10-years old, paying something like $12 for the Score baseball card of Bo shirtless wearing shoulder pads and a baseball bat. It was one of my most prized sports card possessions back in the day. I think it’s worth 75 cents now.
Alas, the most interesting part of the doc turned out to be the conclusion most of the journalists made that Bo is the ultimate “What If?” athlete. It’s a tough notion to argue with. Can you think of anyone who had more natural ability than Bo? More strength? More speed? He ran a 4.12 40-yard dash at the Combine!!?! Do you know how incredibly fast that is? He legged out singles on balls hit a couple steps to the left of the 2nd baseman. He tracked down balls in the outfield with ease. He’s the only player in NFL history with two touchdown runs of 90-plus yards. He once said that anything he did outside of baseball season was a hobby; meaning, his entire football career was a HOBBY. What kind of hobbies do you have? Knitting? Stamp collecting? Halo?
It’s crazy to think what could have been for him. His 162-game averages of 33 homers, 97 RBI and 19 steals suggest an outside Hall of Fame career stretched out over 15-plus seasons; though his .250 average and 196 strikeout pace might say otherwise. But Bo never played more than 135 games (in 1989) in his brief 8-year career. His NFL numbers are even more suggestive, especially his 5.4 career yards-per-carry average, which is better than Barry Sanders (5.0), Adrian Peterson (5.0), Tony Dorsett (4.3), Emmitt Smith (4.2) and the man he replaced in Oakland, Marcus Allen (4.1), to name a few. However, Bo’s career high in games played is only 11 in 1989; hey, he had a good year.
Jeremy Schapp brought up an interesting idea late in the doc, and in a way, he’s right. What if (there’s that statement again) Bo had came around 10-12 years later, looking like he did, hitting home runs like he did, running over Brian Bosworth like he did? What would we all be thinking? Naturally, we’d assume Bo was taking something to enhance his performance. No one is that big, that strong and that fast. But Bo was. He was country strong and he did everything with such ease that if it were during another era the cloud of suspicion would hang over him.
Thankfully, that’s not the case. Sure, we only got to enjoy Bo for really 3-4 years but those were pretty freakin’ awesome.
I do know that.
LOS ANGELES — Can’t believe it’s Week 13 already. Seems like Hard Knocks just ended and we were getting ready for Dallas and New York to kickoff on the Wednesday Night opener. Nope. Twelve weeks down. Only 10 remain. Who’s the Super Bowl favorite? Beats me. Who’s MVP? Your guess is as good as mine. Coach of the Year, who’s getting fired, your fantasy football league champ? Color me clueless.
One thing is known, though, who’s the Man. Let’s find out.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (record: 1-10) (last week: 32) — So who’s going to be coaching the Chiefs next year? Chip Kelly? Bill O’Brien? Bill Cowher? And who’s going to be the quarterback? Now that Matt Barkley’s stock has fallen, is it Tyler Wilson from Arkansas? Alex Smith? Blaine Gabbert? Tim Tebow? Kevin Kolb? Michael Vick?
31.) Arizona Cardinals (4-7) (26) — Losers of 7 straight don’t get mentions in this column.
30.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) (28) — See #31.
29.) New York Jets (4-7) (27) — The biggest news to come out of Jets camp this week: Tim Tebow jersey sales down! Oh no!
28.) Oakland Raiders (3-8) (23) — When the Raiders play the Browns this week, do you think Carson Palmer and Brandon Weeden have a side bet of who’s going to throw the first Pick 6? Because they should.
27.) Cleveland Browns (3-8) (30) — See #28.
26.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) (31) — Chris Law is jealous of Chad Henne’s Mo-vember ‘stache. And that’s saying something.
25.) Carolina Panthers (3-8) (29) –– Hey, Cam Newton, you actually won a game, so doing your whole Superman TD celebration actually made sense for once! Congrats!
24.) Tennessee Titans (4-7) (20) — Nate Washington has been in my fantasy starting lineup for a majority of the season. That should tell you all you need to know about the Titans and the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits.
23.) Buffalo Bills (4-7) (24) — Did you catch the Amish Rifle on “The League” a couple weeks ago? That was far and away his best performance of the season. Oof.
22.) San Diego Chargers (4-7) (19) — There are several famous sport plays where things have yet to be finalized: Albert Pujols’ ball he hit off Brad Lidge still hasn’t landed, Matt Holiday still hasn’t touched home plate, Bo Jackson still hasn’t stopped running and Ray Rice still hasn’t crossed the 34-yard line. Still, they should show that 4th and 29 play to high schools across the country and how NOT to tackle someone.
21.) St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) (22) — Alert to all fantasy football owners: Steven Jackson had 100 yards! Steven Jackson had 100 yards! Only the 2nd time all season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (5-6) (25) — When you watched Hard Knocks at the end of the summer, was there any shot you thought you’d be watching a 5-win, on-the-verge-of-the-playoffs team? Didn’t think so.
19.) Detroit Lions (4-7) (18) — Yes, the Lions got semi-hosed on Thanksgiving. Yes, Jim Schwartz should know the rules. Yes, Ndamukong Suh is driving his way out of the league.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (5-6) (16) — I can’t wait until these guys are sinking and the national media can stop talking about them. However, with a matchup with the hapless Eagles in Week 13, which will get Dallas to .500, we’re not out of the woods just yet. Sigh.
17.) Minnesota Vikings (6-5) (15) — Hey, Jimmy, how you feelin’ about your boys now: “You know it’s a bad day when the punt holder scores on you … I think we have 13 total yards this half … My team is so bad today that Fox switched games at the half … I can wait another year for a Super Bowl appearance.”
16.) Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) (17) — This is a team I’d be afraid to play down the stretch, along with the Bucs. Andy Dalton is quietly having himself another Pro Bowl season.
15.) New Orleans Saints (5-6) (12) — Losing last weekend really hurts the Saints playoff chances, but a win against Atlanta would certainly keep them in the mix. But they don’t play any defense, which is kind of a problem in the NFL, unless you’re the Patriots. And how Marques Colston got up after getting upended like he did, I’ll never know.
14.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) (10) — It baffles me that Pittsburgh didn’t call or David Garrard or Donovan McNabb to fill in at quarterback while Ben Roethlisberger is out. Maybe they did, and we don’t know it, but I feel like that report would’ve gotten out. You can’t roll with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch. You can’t. Not when you still have a shot to win the Super Bowl
13.) Seattle Seahawks (6-5) (11) — Let’s see how good that Seahawks defense is when it has to go on the road (Chicago) and defend a red hot Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall without their two best defensive backs. Guessing Seattle falls by the wayside.
12.) Washington Redskins (5-6) (21) — I mean seriously, Robert Griffin The Third, if ya need him. So all My Good Friend Robert did on Thursday was annihilate the Cowboys, at JonesMahal, on Thanksgiving, in front of America. AND he did it by becoming the first rookie quarterback EVER to throw 4 TDs in consecutive games. NBD. I said it before and I’ll say it again, you are NOT changing the channel when the Redskins have the ball. EVER. I love caps lock.
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) (9) — Are the Bucs the best of the 6-5 and 5-6 group? I’d say so, though if you can’t defend the home turf against a division rival, maybe you don’t deserve to make the playoffs. That was a tough one to lose, especially when you’re looking up at the Falcons. But two of these teams are going to be playing in January. My hunch is Tampa is there.
10.) Indianapolis Colts (7-4) (13) — Who’s making whom better this season: Andrew Luck or Reggie Wayne? Little of each, right? And to think, we all laughed at Reggie when he announced he was re-upping with the Colts for two more years. Insane! We all said. Who’s laughing now. Colts, back in the playoffs (almost). Crazy. And if they play Denver? Twitter might break.
9.) Green Bay Packers (7-4) (2) — “Paging someone who can block for Aaron Rodgers. Anyone out there who can block for Aaron Rodgers. Please report to Green Bay, Wisconsin immediately. We have a jersey waiting for you.”
8.) New York Giants (7-4) (14) — Man, where has THAT Giants team been all season?! That sure was something on Sunday night. Guess Eli really needed that bye week to rest his dead arm, and the defensive line needed some time off to hone their hunting skills. Sure, the Packers offensive line is about as good as a group of 7th graders, but Green Bay had been rolling lately and New York made it look like chumps. I may have to amend my Super Bowl pick.
7.) Baltimore Ravens (9-2) (7) — Nothing about this Ravens team inspires me. They are ripe for a Divisional Round upset to the Colts.
6.) Chicago Bears (8-3) (8) — Should Jay Cutler be in the MVP discussion? The stats are telling.: 1-6 without him in the last two years, 15-5 with him. Despite his hideous mustache, bro balled out this past weekend and has put himself in the Top 5.
5.) Denver Broncos (8-3) (6) — Is Denver the best team in the NFL? Not yet. But they are playing like it. Pretty unconvincing win against the hapless Chiefs for the best team in the league. That game should’ve been a boat race, but it wasn’t. Still, Peyton Manning is the MVP until someone rips it from him. Arian Foster has a chance. Outside chance.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) (5) — It’s hilarious to me that every former coach-turned-analyst on television right now is saying that Jim Harbaugh is doing the right thing by sticking with Colin Kaepernick, while every player is saying that Alex Smith is getting a raw deal and should get his job back. I’m not saying Smith isn’t a good player, but hell, what CK is doing can’t be duplicated.
3.) Atlanta Falcons (10-1) (4) — There’s a lot of people talking trash about the Falcons; calling them the worst one-loss team this late in the season in quite some time. Well, they’ve won 10 of their 11 games. Whether it was by one point, or 100 points, they’ve done it. Matt Ryan throws 5 picks? No worries, they still win. No running game? They still win. Still, people won’t be satisfied until Ryan and Mike Smith win a playoff game.
2.) New England Patriots (8-3) (3) — Can’t tell you how enjoyable that Thanksgiving Day game was to watch. When this Patriots team has it cookin’ on all cylinders they are a fun group to watch. And say what you want, but if you don’t want Tom Brady out there up 30 points throwing darts downfield, stop him. Just really hope they don’t look past Miami this week toward that Monday Night showdown with the Texans in Week 14.
1.) Houston Texans (10-1) (1) — To play 10 quarters of football in roughly 4-and-a-half days, wow, and to win both games (albeit a tad controversially), hell, that’s enough to make you The Man.