day 16: bo (the player, not the parshah)

Today is 16 days, which is two weeks and two days of the omer: gevurah she’b’tiferet.

For my money there’s really only one #16 who demonstrates  true “strength through beauty,” and that is one of the greatest athletes of all time, Kansas City Royals outfielder Bo Jackson, a man who played both professional football and professional baseball simultaneously.

Jackson ended up playing in nearly 700 MLB games across nine seasons. He smacked 141 home runs and was the 1989 All-Star Game MVP. For the first half of his career, Jackson also played on NFL Sundays as well, racking up nearly 40 games to his name, all with the Los Angeles Raiders.

Warning: college football digression. And all this after being drafted by the Yankees in 1982 and choosing instead to play college football at Auburn, where he ran for 4,303 career yards, the fourth best performance in SEC history, and won the Heisman trophy in 1985. (Amazingly, Jackson was not the first Heisman winner to play professional baseball.) His first year at Auburn he sealed its victory over perpetual rival Alabama — a multi-conference- and national-title-winning team coached by the legendary Bear Bryant that had beaten Auburn the previous nine years — in a move that came to be known as “Bo Over the Top,” a leap over an Alabama defensive lineman on a fourth-down play on the one-yard line that gave Auburn the lead with 2:26 remaining. Oh, yeah, Jackson suggested the play because he knew from his track and field experience in high school that he could jump 7 feet in the air. In college football there’s no game more important than the rivalry one — see Red River Rivalry, which by the way Texas leads 65-48-5! — and even otherwise successful coaches find their jobs in jeopardy after losing that game too many years in a row. In fact, two years before this memorable win, Auburn fired its coach after he failed to defeat Alabama for the fifth consecutive year.

Oh, and Jackson played baseball for Auburn, too.

You can catch some of Jackson’s “career highlights” here (though these clips only cover baseball), including a fun Spiderman move up the outfield wall on the momentum of chasing down a fly ball, and more than one perfect throw from left field to cut down a runner racing for home.

In 1988 and 1989, Jackson’s power and speed ranked him first and third, respectively, in the AL. Jackson’s fame in those two years was boosted by the famous “Bo Knows” ad campaign for Nike, which featured the athlete taking on a variety of different sports, punctuated by a famous player affirming “Bo knows baseball/football/tennis/cycling/etc.” (except for hockey, to which Wayne Gretzky just says, “No.”) and ending with a failed attempt at playing guitar, whereupon blues legend Bo Diddley quips, “Bo, you don’t know Diddley!”

Bo definitely knows gevurah she’b’tiferet, and so we count day 16 in honor of the kid who was in his childhood described as a “wild boar.”

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