Bo Jackson, BO, Dick Shap discussed on Effectively Wild: A FanGraphs Baseball Podcast


Jackson. This book builds accurately, I think, as the definitive bio of Bo is called the last folk hero, the life and myth of Bo Jackson, Jeff, congrats on reaching a double digit book count in welcome to the show. You know what? I only did it for one reason and it's to appear on your podcast. That is the only reason I've waited all my career starting 20 years ago led to this moment. Well, glad to fulfill your dreams. And I'm going to try to avoid making more bow nose jokes during this conversation, but I will allow myself one at the start, which is that Bo new apparently that writing a book about him was going to be hard. He told you that during the one quick call you had with him, and he was right. So aside from the fact that he didn't want to talk to you for the book, which maybe made it slightly more difficult, why was it hard to tell his story? Oh man, he's so guarded. He's so guarded. He is a clam in a shell. Like he is as guard as you can be. And it's hard when, I mean, it's weird. I don't think I've ever written about someone like this, where you're so well known, but so guarded at the same time. You know, like, that's a rare combination. Sounds like a possibly a fruitful one for a biographer really, because everyone knows who it is, but it may not know that much about him. And I do think so. I do think so. But I just think it is a little bit of a challenge when a guy is really, really, really, really guarded and at the same time. Super famous. And so you're trying to convince people there's a reason to write a biography because they think they know everything about someone, and you're like, no, you actually know nothing about this guy. And I'm going to try to prove that. But it's a challenge. Well, it's not your first biography. It's not your first authorized biography. So you're used to writing around to subject and finding a way to tell someone's story, perhaps without their participation, and if access to the subject where all that mattered, then there wouldn't need to be a Bo Jackson biography because he wrote an autobiography with dick Shep and that would just be all you need to know, but of course there is more to it than that. So what is your strategy? It seems like just possibly excessive amounts of research is one way around not talking to the person at the center of the story. But how do you kind of compensate for not getting something straight from the horse's mouth, although I guess in this case, you did have some notes that were prepared and made public from the autobiography, so that helped. So my approach is just like, go for it all. It truly is, like, go for it all. When I was at Sports Illustrated, we had a really, you know, Gary Smith was this great writer. And I heard him say he didn't say it to me, but I heard him say, like, always make the extra call, always make the extra call always make the extra call. And that's kind of my approach. Always make the extra call. Like, I'll have people every now and then be like, man, you're a great reporter. And I'm like, I'm actually not a great reporter. Like, I'm not great with finding things. I'm not amazing at documents, et cetera. I'm not that great at that. But I am good at calling and making the astronaut making their scroll. And with this book, as you alluded to, like dick shap wrote nose bow in 1990 and before he died, he gave all his notes tapes, et cetera, to the auburn library. And I didn't know about this, but I was working in the book and someone said, you know, dick shap donated blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I reached out, and I don't think anyone had touched this stuff in 30 years. I really don't. And it was a freaking avalanche of material. Number one, it was all the audio recordings from a 28 year old bow talking about his life and career. Number two, it was all transcribed, much of it by Jeremy shap a young Jeremy shop at the time his son. And a ton of it never made the book a ton of it. And the interesting thing journalistically is maybe a ton of it didn't make the book because he didn't want it in the book. You know, like there's something. But I just kind of thought it was public information. It was donated to a library. People go to a library to read stuff. I think that gives me kind of access to it. And that was sort of a big moment for me, finding that. Right. So folk heroes can be completely real or completely fictitious. And he is obviously real, but there's an element of myth to him. So how much of the bow we know those of us who haven't written books about him is real? A very large percentage actually. Now, what I found really fun was sort of digging behind the mythology and, you know, perfect example is the 91 yard run on Monday Night Football against the Seahawks, which is really part one of a two part bonanza the other being him running over bosworth in the same game. And all right, so we have this run. We've seen it a million times. What can I do with a run we've seen a million times that everyone knows from a certain era? When you start calling people, when you call more people. And I talked to Dave Craig, the Seahawks quarterback. And he was talking about how he was standing on the sidelines when Bo ran past. And he swore by this.

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