With Tim Tebow the latest ex-NFL player to try his hand at the MLB, it’s only fair to look back at the man who came before – Bo Jackson.
The multi-sport athlete is usually consigned to one of two categories. A) the washed up attention seeker who’s wasting his/her/their time, and thusly, bringing the game into disrepute, or B) the show-off freak, whose showboating is wasting their time and, thusly, game, disrepute, blah blah blah. Ex-NFL QB Tim Tebow has already been placed in the former, on the news that the Mets have signed him to a minor-league deal.
Now an important part of an athlete’s success is cynicism. It builds obstacles, column inches, and bills get paid. The media shoot down the chances of success of an any athlete, because, when an athlete succeeds, the narrative is all the more brilliant – and the verbal masturbation may commence in earnest.
However, there is a special circle of ire-ish castigation for those with the hubris to have a crack at another professional sport.
Michael Jordan, the hoop (and intergalactic – Ed) demigod, decided to play baseball as a means of catharsis, honouring his brutally slain father (daddy’s dreams) and thusly spent some of his prime struggling in Double-A, Buttfucksville (note: not the battery, although a tongue placed on a 9v would provide a similar jolt of electricity to a glance at his minor league statistics). Similarly to this, ex-Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady, famous for the world’s sleepiest face, and doing this against the Spurs (the 2:48 mark in that clip says it all), tried to re-invent himself as a baseball pitcher, as was the case with our own Jarryd Hayne trying his hand in the NFL, all the way down to twenty minutes ago when WWE-convert CM Punk slapped on the board shorts of the UFC.
All of which ended in a big pile of nope. All during their noble failures, the bassline of the media thumped hard. The unifying unwritten rule written in the ink of vituperative scorn seems to be that you pick one, and that’s who you are; otherwise colloquially known as “What are you doing here, boy?”. While hype may be mined, the wall of acceptance that must be climed is lined in barb.
A similar fate probably awaits Tim Tebow, but those detractors on the porch sport not a banjo, but keyboard, those well-coiffed yokels emboldened two centuries of justified criticism. These morons , who which one day I hope to join their ranks, ESPN, please answer my calls.
However, there is a modern day example that refutes the rule. The closest thing that we’ve witnessed to a multi-sport pro, a man equally as good at two sports, is Bo Jackson. (And arguably Cumberland Posey, who played in the Negro Leagues for basketball and baseball, because, yay, 1920’s racism). Winning the Heisman (The TV Week Logies of collegiate football) at Auburn, Bo was expected to follow it, but, Bo does as Bo did.
Now, Bo – years before our own local sporting gronk, the other Beau (Ryan ruined the great man’s legacy by badgering bombed-out meth-heads for comment on a sunburnt shire concourse – Jackson famously decided to play for the Los Angeles Raiders and the Royals of Kansas City, at the same time. Soon as one would finish for the year, he’d play the other. He’d pursue the NFL as a leisure pursuit. Which was ironic, because that’s what the NFL did, pursue Bo. Literally. They couldn’t catch him. Jackson became the premier running back in the NFL the moment he stepped through the door.
Which, stop. Hammertime. That shouldn’t have happened.
Those people who couldn’t stop Bo were professionals. People who torched themselves for a chance to play in the NFL. They’re there for a reason, and Bo just made them look like infants who scored their first taste of a Christmastime ale. Meantime, in the baseball world, the myth of Bo was legitimised in the 1989 All-Star Game, when he dropped the jaw of Ronald Reagan, and the pants of a nation.
Suddenly the media hype turned from negative to positive, which made Bo, the unique athlete, unique in defying media criticism. Quickly, he was famous for two things; 1) knowing everything:
…and 2) being an absolute freak:
Sadly, circumstance clipped this sporting deity, as a freak injury felled this athletic freak, and we were left with the bitterest of questions in sporting life: “what if”, the substitute question bandied around was “Could Bo be the first Hall of Famer in both sports?” For an answer, we’ll leave it to baseball legend (and affable wordsmith) Buck O’Neill.
Over to you, Tebow.