His achievements were not exactly accidental: The ability to play a major league sport after hip-replacement surgery (he had a second replacement operation this past summer) suggests a will or character that is made, not inherited. But Bo does not claim much credit for his feats and, consequently, does not permit himself much satisfaction from them. This is infuriating to mortals. Professional football, as he once told us, was his hobby.
Bo's wife, who has a doctorate in psychology and ought to have a better handle on him than anybody, agrees that his indifference is more than annoying. Linda remembers his hitting three home runs in three at bats, taking a month off for an injury and returning to hit a fourth home run in his next at bat." 'Vince,' " she remembers saying to him (she alone is allowed to address him by his given name), " 'don't you think that's kind of a big deal?' But it was nothing to him."
There's not much, after all these seasons, that he is openly proud of. Marrying Linda, that's one thing. He still can hardly believe it. "I know that I married over my head," he says. And he's proud of his college degree, which he received after taking 10 correspondence classes over the last three years. Mostly though, his dominance is so inescapable that he cannot take it seriously.
Bo tells a story of a guy at the local gym ("on the juice," he says) who challenged him to a weightlifting contest. Bo beat him, even though he doesn't lift weights. He tells the story with a shrug, his pride mostly secret. "I'm just naturally strong," he says.
So why should he regret his retirement if he never exulted in his work? Bo now withdraws to his basement sanctuary, a five-by-10-foot cubbyhole that has been subdivided from a utility room. He makes his arrows there and thinks. "I can probably say, if I wanted to be in the baseball Hall of Fame, I could have been easily," he says. "If I wanted to be in the football Hall of Fame, I could have done that too. But I can say also that I wouldn't go back and change a thing." His time came and went. "Nobody waits for you to hit your last homer, score your last touchdown. You have to grow up. You have to move on."
He says he knew back in college that he would move on before the age of 34. But even Bo might have been subject to the inertia that makes well-paid stars—in his prime he made as much as $7 million a year—stay around from season to season. What hurried him out of baseball was not his increasingly part-time status with the California Angels but his consistently part-time status with his kids. He had begun to brood about his failings as a father, much as he had come to brood about his own father's failings with him. As his athletic career matured, Bo realized that important issues had been ducked. The pain that surfaced in him had less to do with his hip than with entangled family relationships.
"Whenever I had free time," he says, thunking an arrow into his workbench, "I'd spend the whole day with my kids." Raised without a father, or rather with a crosstown father who denied Bo his name, love and attention, Bo was fiercely determined to be a hands-on dad. "My children," he would tell Linda with a strange vehemence, "will be loved." But for all the attention that he gave them, he noticed that they still went to their mother when it was crunch time.
"Why do they go to you whenever they have a problem?" he asked Linda, hurt.
"Because I get up with them every morning," she said.
This was surprising news. Bo would have given anything to have had a father like...Bo. "My own father," he says, "do you know what I thought a father was? A man who came to your house every month and a half and left $20 on the table." The harshness of that comment only hints at the depth of his resentment. A.D. Adams, called Big Track, lived with his wife and his other children 20 minutes away, and life was no doubt complicated for him. But Bo, who was raised by his mother, Florence, was unforgiving. He blamed A.D. for whatever trouble he got into, and there was plenty of it: Bo has boasted of such indiscriminate meanness that he had to hire kids to beat up schoolmates, because "I didn't have time to beat all of them up myself.