ESPN show to revisit a two-sport sensation
Documentary provides update on star who became part of pop culture.
Bo Jackson enjoys going to the supermarket much more these days.
Back when he was a two-sport pro athlete and pop culture star more than two decades ago, the family cook couldn’t do his grocery shopping without being mobbed by fans. Perhaps surprising for a guy who was once everywhere on TV in a classic ad campaign, not everyone knows Bo anymore.
“It really doesn’t bother me that people don’t know who I am,” said Jackson, who turned 50 on Friday. “It’s kind of nice in a way.”
An admittedly private person who long struggled with stuttering, Jackson has taken on a more public persona recently. In the spring, he biked across his native Alabama, recruiting other celebrities to raise money for victims of the 2011 tornados that ravaged the state. Jackson was part of the four-man search committee as his alma mater, Auburn, hired Gus Malzahn as its football coach Tuesday.
And he agreed to participate in a documentary about the only man to be selected for both the NFL’s Pro Bowl and baseball’s All-Star game.
You Don’t Know Bo, about the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, will premiere Saturday on ESPN after this year’s Heisman ceremony. The title, a play on Nike’s famous Bo Knows commercials, was partly inspired by a conversation director Mike Bonfiglio had with his two teenage cousins, both big sports fans. They didn’t know Bo.
“That was a very interesting thing to me, that this guy who was so incredibly famous for a brief period of time — he was one of the most recognizable names and faces in the country,” Bonfiglio said on a conference call with Jackson on Wednesday.
But even older fans who vividly remember Jackson’s outrageous athletic feats might not really feel as if they know Bo.
“I think he’s still an enigma,” Bonfiglio said.
Jackson thinks everyone makes his legacy more complicated that it was. Teammates called him a freak of nature, he recalled, but “I’m just being me.” As a kid, he played multiple sports and played them well; the way he sees it, he simply kept doing that as an adult.
“As far as doing the dual sports thing, that was just a way to keep me out of trouble,” he said. “Idle time with me is the devil’s workshop, and if my mother was still alive, she would tell you.”
He played running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and outfield for was my source of employment. It was my way of keeping a roof over my family’s head, putting food on the table for my family.”
Bonfiglio said the film would have gone on even had Jackson declined to participate. But Jackson said he was happy to help as long as it didn’t take too much time from his business commitments.
“What surprised me the most about Bo is what a good story teller he is,” Bonfiglio said. “He’s just really, really eloquent and just spins a good yarn, and he’s fun to listen to.”
Those commercials celebrated Jackson’s versatility as other stars from Michael Jordan to Wayne Gretzky list all the sports Bo knows. Jackson doesn’t consider his fame a marketer’s creation.
“You have to perform to get that notoriety,” he said. “You just can’t go and put your name on a shoe and become an overnight sensation. You have to prove it.”
Bo Jackson, shown after hitting a home run in the All-Star Legends & Celebrity softball game in 2010, is the only athlete to participate in the NFL’s Pro Bowl and baseball’s AllStar game.