The Last Folk Hero

I was born on June 7, 1982.

Until last night I never knew that on this date the most storied franchise in American sports drafted arguably the greatest athlete ever to don a baseball, football, or track and field uniform.

Bo Jackson never played for the New York Yankees, but I appreciated reading about the connection (among other things) in Jeff Pearlman’s new book, The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson.

Pearlman is the bestselling author of nearly a dozen books, among them The Bad Guys Won (about the 1980s Mets) and Winning Time (about the 1980s Lakers). Now writing about 1980s baseball and football–does this guy know me or what?–Pearlman has found another sweet spot.

He admits the phrase “last folk hero” isn’t his. Hot take from Joe Posnanski. And it is ever so apt. Before there was YouTube or the ubiquity of recording devices, one had to be seen to be known. Growing up in rural Alabama, dirt poor and Black (sorry, but it’s an important part of the story), not many people saw Bo Jackson. Just heard of him. Maybe. Heard from someone who heard from someone. Like stories about Paul Bunyan or John Henry.

Some of these stories are familiar. (Yeah, he could jump over a parked car.) Some of them are new. (Wrestling a boar hog? Bo‘ hog? That’s where “Bo” came from?) Some live in history books or can be documented now with this thing called the Internet. (Scored the game-winning touchdown in a one-point win for Auburn over Alabama, Bo’s freshman season.)

But some stories… well, maybe they’re just the work of folk heroes.

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About moc

My name is Mike O'Connell. I am 40 years old and live in Northern Virginia. I am a teacher, a musician, and an enthusiast of all things American.

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