...is a Raider, pillaging just for fun. At least that's how the poem goes. As far back as the 1970's, the Raiders represented rebellion and they were "the bad guys." They were the repository for every castoff, thug, and ne'er-do-well in the NFL. And worse, they won. A lot. Like most males of my generation, I went through a brief fascination with the LA/Oakland Raiders in the late 80's and early 90's. By the time I was a teenager, gangster rappers had adopted the silver and black and made them cool all over again by being everything conventional society and parents hated. They used the Raider colors as their own uniform and really, look how simple and badass those uniforms are:
Now I am very white and from a very very white town, but I lived briefly in a non lily-white area so I know first hand how
ridiculous it is when upper middle class kids adopt the urban attitude. For
the white kids in the 'burbs, it is a poseur persona; for kids in the ghetto,
it is just the way life is. So I never really liked the Raiders because it was "cool," I
liked the Raiders for a different, better reason: Bo Jackson.
Bo Jackson was unbelievable. There will never be someone like Bo Jackson ever again. He was an athletic savant. He made everything look easy. I watched Bo play baseball with awe, but then he started playing football too, you know, as a hobby (seriously). And whatever the equivalent of 500 foot homers are in baseball, he did that in football. Every time he came to bat, you dropped what you were doing and watched. When he was in the back field, every single time he touched the ball, a touchdown was likely. He made moves that defy logic. They needed a higher league for his talents. If you never saw him play, go to youtube and watch some of his highlights. It's OK, I'll wait...
Unfortunately, he was a shooting star that streamed across the sky briefly and faded away. Because he chose that rather dangerous hobby, he got hurt. And by hurt, I mean he got brutally tackled and it ground his hip into dust and hamburger. After that, he never played football again. But defying all logic once again, he got a hip replacement and came back to play baseball for a few more years. That's right, he played baseball with a frigging artificial joint in his leg.
I say that we will never see another person like Bo Jackson again because, sure, while maybe there will be another athlete like him, no one will ever play baseball and running back at the same time again nor to the level that he achieved at each (All Star and Pro Bowl, respectively). We might get another Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan, but another Bo? No way. He is unique amongst athletes in history. And in a way, we kind of got cheated. If he had focused on baseball, who knows what we could have seen. What was the celing - Ken Griffey Jr., maybe? Sammy Sosa may have been the floor. If he had focused on football and not gotten hurt? We would probably talk about him over Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith, since he was pretty much a combination of those two, with some Earl Campbell thrown in for good measure. Bo Jackson is one of the all time What Might Have Beens in sports. Oh, but what we got was pretty damn good.
I am using the Raiders today because my Saints are playing them in Oakland (and I even get to watch them on the television because of the Giants bye week...woohoo!). My infatuation with the Raiders is long over, so watching New Orleans stomp them today will bring me great joy. I used Bo Jackson today to introduce one of my absolute favorite player collections. I have a whole cube of Bo which means about 150 different cards. Very few of my player collections are in binders - Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Todd Hundley are about it. The rest are in a big box trapped in plastic cases and cubes waiting to get the call to the big time. I think of all my player collections, Bo might be the next to get the nine page treatment.
UPDATE: I posted this 12 days before Bo's 50th birthday. Bo Jackson is 50? Wow. I am old.