He will be 50 years old, and he will appear in the spring at the training camp of the Kansas City Royals. The hairline will have receded and he will walk with a limp from the artificial hip, but no one on the field will have more presence than Bo Jackson. Fingers will be pointed. Whispers will be exchanged.
"See that guy, son? He could have been the best ever...."
"A tragedy, I tell you. A flat-out tragedy...."
His waistline will be trim and his body will be hard because he still will be working with weights. His face will be recognizable because he still will be selling shoes and vitamin supplements and an assortment of products. The other players of his time will have disappeared into the fuzzy world of retirement, but he still will seem young and strong and lethal. "Why, if that hip were all right...."
"I saw him, I think it was 1990, strike out once and break a bat over his knee. Just break the bat as if it were a darned toothpick...."
"I saw him play for the L.A. Raiders. He came around right end and made a move I've never seen—before or since...."
The early end of his two-sport career, greeted with such shock and sadness in the spring of 1991, will make him even bigger and better in the future than he ever was in the present. The mind will finish the story by ignoring the numbers that are used to judge the typical player and replacing them with adjectives for Bo. All the moves that he was cheated out of making will be constructed in the imagination. He will hit home runs that defy description, shots that split the cover off the ball in midflight and end with a pile of string landing in the centerfield bleachers. He will run for touchdowns through all 11 men on the other side of the line of scrimmage, carrying at least two of them with him as he reaches the end zone.
The ads that he did—Bo Knows Whatever—will be part of the mix. Who is to say none of that happened? Or wouldn't have happened? Maybe he did skate with Gretzky. Maybe he did play tennis against McEnroe. He surely must have laid some mean guitar riffs on that Diddley fellow. Or driven in the Indy 500. Or ridden in the Kentucky Derby.
"Do you know how hard it is to play two sports? This guy would go straight from the end of the baseball season to the middle of football...."
"He called football his hobby. Can you believe that? Some hobby...."