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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Portland Business Q&A: Bo Jackson on how he was always picked first on the playground

T&L: Were you always picked first on the playground?
Jackson: If I wasn’t doing the picking, then yes. I was always meant to be a leader.

Tripon Posted: March 23, 2013 at 11:21 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bo jackson

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   1. Bhaakon Posted: March 24, 2013 at 08:02 AM (#4395210)
Yeah, he was picked first for his leadership skills.
   2. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: March 24, 2013 at 09:52 AM (#4395218)
He probably was a leader on the playground. That's how it was when I was growing up. The best athletes were the leaders.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 24, 2013 at 10:56 AM (#4395231)
Picking inferior players when he's the captain...yeah, that's great leadership.
   4. PreservedFish Posted: March 24, 2013 at 11:29 AM (#4395235)
He probably was a leader on the playground. That's how it was when I was growing up. The best athletes were the leaders.


I went to an all-boys camp for years and later became a counselor there. Among the 9-11 year olds it is amazing the extent to which athletic skills are linked up with both leadership and coolness. Each year the kids would decide that a certain lunch table was THE COOL TABLE, where everyone wanted to eat. The cafeteria was a good quarter mile away from where other activities took place, so the only way to get a spot at that table was to sprint the entire way - thus ensuring that there was a basically 100% overlap between the fastest 10 kids and the coolest 10 kids. The correlation breaks up a bit in the teenage years, as kids discover apathy and idleness, but still mostly holds.

At the end of the year the camp would give out highly coveted "Best Camper" awards to different age groups - the winners of this award got their names on banners that hang for decades - and basically only the really athletic kids were ever even under consideration, and rightfully so, because these were the only kids that were widely perceived as influential leaders by their peers.
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM (#4395237)
I seem to remember Bo clashing with Willie Wilson in KC because Willie was the old vet who had a batting title, Gold Glove, All-Star and World Series appearances, and Bo was just this name with no accomplishments. Overall though Bo was not as cocky as you might think considering the hype, but I don't recall him being much of a leader with the Royals or Raiders for that matter.

When I was a kid, the leaders were those that asserted themselves. I've found that most people want to be led, so whoever steps up will likely fill that vacuum, as long as they maintain that legitimacy.
   6. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: March 24, 2013 at 12:17 PM (#4395244)
I went to an all-boys camp for years and later became a counselor there. Among the 9-11 year olds it is amazing the extent to which athletic skills are linked up with both leadership and coolness.


Some of this is just physical maturity. If you mature a little faster, at age 10 you will be a better athlete (bigger, more coordination, etc) and also might be a little more emotionally and socially together, and hence cooler. IOW, the traits that make a 10-year-old athletic can also make him cool, so athleticism is associated with coolness more than a cause of coolness.
   7. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM (#4395268)
This just in, the best athletes tend to be the most popular people around?
   8. Squash Posted: March 24, 2013 at 01:34 PM (#4395281)
I seem to remember Bo clashing with Willie Wilson in KC because Willie was the old vet who had a batting title, Gold Glove, All-Star and World Series appearances, and Bo was just this name with no accomplishments. Overall though Bo was not as cocky as you might think considering the hype, but I don't recall him being much of a leader with the Royals or Raiders for that matter.

I remember Bo the same way - he was quiet, and seemed somewhat introverted. He was less a leader and more just the best guy out there. It would have been really cool to have seen a full career out of him - I'm sure someone has run the no-injury Bo projections - what were his numbers predicted to be (and do they account for the sillyball era)?
   9. Greg K Posted: March 24, 2013 at 02:33 PM (#4395313)
Some of this is just physical maturity. If you mature a little faster, at age 10 you will be a better athlete (bigger, more coordination, etc) and also might be a little more emotionally and socially together, and hence cooler. IOW, the traits that make a 10-year-old athletic can also make him cool, so athleticism is associated with coolness more than a cause of coolness.

I think playing on teams at a young age also ups the amount of time you spend around people, and probably improves your social skills.

Though I have exactly zero experience in sociology or child psychology so that's just an ignorant guess.
   10. The District Attorney Posted: March 24, 2013 at 03:09 PM (#4395329)
Bill James in the '88 Abstract speculates a reason for Wilson's resentment:
Willie Wilson's reaction [to Bo getting permission to play for the Raiders] was, like Wilson, loud, opinionated, and childish. "I guess he got the last laugh, didn't he?" said Wilson. "He got us to believe him, and now we're fools." Other Royals were reportedly upset, but Wilson, who himself was a spectacular football player in high school, but was told by the Royals that he would have to give up football to take the money, was the loudest.
Re: leadership: I don't know how often the best player is the leader, but I think it's far preferable when that's the case (and FWIW, James has said that as well). It bothers me when there's a 40-something Omar Vizquel or Julio Franco hanging out on a roster who bats twice a week, and people act like he's a team leader. I really don't think that normally works. I think it's very difficult to lead when you're not in a position of authority and in fact have very little responsibility for the team's success or failure. Also, the bench player will be tempted to try to leverage his well-liked status into more playing time or other perks, whereas the best player is already at the top of the team hierarchy so has little to gain personally.
   11. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 24, 2013 at 03:24 PM (#4395333)
Also, the bench player will be tempted to try to leverage his well-liked status into more playing time or other perks


See Francoeur, Jeff.
   12. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 24, 2013 at 03:39 PM (#4395339)
Sports teams almost always adopt the personality of their best player, for better or worse. This may be less true in baseball than in basketball or hockey or football, but it's true nonetheless. It's why, as great a player as the guy may be, I would strongly prefer not to have a lazy, selfish star like Jaromir Jagr or Randy Moss on my team.

Actually those were just the first two names to come to mind, but it now occurs to me that both of those guys enjoyed the best (team) success of their careers during the brief periods they played with a bigger (and more dedicated) superstar.
   13. Squash Posted: March 24, 2013 at 04:14 PM (#4395355)
Sports teams almost always adopt the personality of their best player, for better or worse. This may be less true in baseball than in basketball or hockey or football, but it's true nonetheless. It's why, as great a player as the guy may be, I would strongly prefer not to have a lazy, selfish star like Jaromir Jagr or Randy Moss on my team.

I think that's very true and absolutely makes a big(ger) difference in sports where hustle/energy/effort/keeping your feet moving/getting back on defense really is a direct contributor to the team's success (hockey, basketball, soccer, etc.).
   14. Greg K Posted: March 24, 2013 at 04:21 PM (#4395356)
Actually those were just the first two names to come to mind, but it now occurs to me that both of those guys enjoyed the best (team) success of their careers during the brief periods they played with a bigger (and more dedicated) superstar.

There is a bit of bias built in though. If you're one of the best players in the league (Jagr) and there's someone on the team who's even better than you (Lemieux) than you're going to have a damn good team.

When it comes to hockey I do think you may have a point. Jagr was undeniably a better player than Mats Sundin (who was a pretty great player himself), but I'm not sure I'd rather have had Jagr on the Leafs in the late-90s early-00s. Which I should probably re-phrase to clarify: I'd rather have had Jagr, but I'm not sure about it.
   15. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 24, 2013 at 05:15 PM (#4395379)
It depends what you want. Ten years ago when I was still a kid all I cared about was winning championships, and so I'd have given Jagr away for free; you were never winning a championship if Jagr was your best player. The man was just dead lazy.

But the older I get the less I care about the championship and the more I'm coming to appreciate the long regular season (in all the sports I watch) and the pleasure of watching a home team that wins more than it loses. Under those conditions it's great having Jagr around, because the team's going to be good if he's on it, and he was genuinely one of the five or so most gifted scorers in the history of hockey. Watching that guy play offense 80 games a year was damn fun.
   16. Tripon Posted: March 24, 2013 at 06:23 PM (#4395421)
I watched the first half of the Bo Jackson ESPN 30 for 30 doc. Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan are the same age, but one's retired on his farm, and the other is a billionaire.
   17. Pirate Joe Posted: March 24, 2013 at 10:07 PM (#4395557)
For as great a player as Mario Lemieux was no one ever confused him with being a dedicated player until very late in his career. He used to say that his preparation for training camp involved having one cheesburger and fries for diner instead of two. Additionally he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day probably until sometime around his 30th birthday. If he had shown anywhere near the dedication to his craft for the first half of his career as he did after the back injuries and the cancer made him realize how much he missed the game when he couldn't play there would be no doubt in anyone's mind who the greatest hockey player of all time was.

Most people suspect that Jagr picked up his (lack of) work habits from playing as a kid on those veteran Penguins teams that were filled with guys who were so talented that they never really had to work hard at the game, so he figured he didn't have to work hard either.

   18. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 25, 2013 at 12:33 AM (#4395618)
Most people suspect that Jagr picked up his (lack of) work habits from playing as a kid on those veteran Penguins teams that were filled with guys who were so talented that they never really had to work hard at the game, so he figured he didn't have to work hard either.


I don't buy that at all. Your point about Lemieux not really grasping the concept of conditioning until his body was wrecked is well taken, but even so, Lemieux on the laziest day of his life was Jerry Rice compared to Jaromir Jagr. Never saw a hockey player who cared less about, well, anything.
   19. SOLockwood Posted: March 25, 2013 at 08:32 AM (#4395655)
It would be more interesting to compile a list of MLB players who weren't picked first on the playground. It would probably be a very short list (although Bill Ripken and Ozzie Canseco would certainly be on it).
   20. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: March 25, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4395662)
I have a hard time imagining Gerald Laird was ever picked to do anything but be the backup catcher in case the talented kid got hurt.
   21. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 25, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4395696)
It would be more interesting to compile a list of MLB players who weren't picked first on the playground. It would probably be a very short list (although Bill Ripken and Ozzie Canseco would certainly be on it).


"OK, you guys get Jeff Weaver, but you have to take his little brother too. And he has to pitch."
   22. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 25, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4395753)
PreservedFish #4, it sounds like we went to the same camp (not actually, but I think most boys camps operate the same way). Heck, most of childhood and adolescence in general is like that.

It would be more interesting to compile a list of MLB players who weren't picked first on the playground. It would probably be a very short list (although Bill Ripken and Ozzie Canseco would certainly be on it).

There's a passage in Ball Four where Jim Bouton talks about someone on the Pilots whose bio says he was a late-inning defensive specialist in high school. Don't remember who it was, but Bouton found it hilarious because everyone else in the majors was a star on their high school team.

He also notes that even the pitchers in MLB were usually the best hitters in high school, too. Except for Bouton himself, who always batted ninth.
   23. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 25, 2013 at 11:15 AM (#4395771)
It would be more interesting to compile a list of MLB players who weren't picked first on the playground. It would probably be a very short list (although Bill Ripken and Ozzie Canseco would certainly be on it).

There are a few pitchers who couldn't hit at all in their amateur career either. The Brewers had two for a while in Ben Sheets and Doug Davis, but I guess both are very athletic guys otherwise. Aaron Harang is another one, and he looks like a goofy weirdo, but then again he's really tall.

Then there's the fat pitchers who were extremely tubby even at the beginning of their careers. Ruben Quevedo. Mike Zagurski. Todd Coffey.
   24. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2013 at 12:48 PM (#4395849)
It would be more interesting to compile a list of MLB players who weren't picked first on the playground.


Eckstein. Grit doesn't develop until after puberty.
   25. Moeball Posted: March 25, 2013 at 03:12 PM (#4395986)
You mean the kid who was biggest, strongest and fastest always got picked first on the playground?

I'm shocked, just shocked.

Among the 9-11 year olds it is amazing the extent to which athletic skills are linked up with both leadership and coolness.


Actually, it isn't just 9-11 year olds and it isn't just athletic ability. It's what being the biggest and strongest translates into culturally - the ones who win the fights. In my school daze it was often the biggest and strongest (not necessarily the fastest) who got picked first, mainly because they were least likely to get picked on - and, if there was going to be a fight (there usually was) - you wanted one of them as your team leader as your protector.

Historically we have done the same thing as adults in this country. Think how often we have elected military Generals to be our country's President (i.e., the ones who win at fighting are seen to be good leaders - I guess whether in childhood or adulthood we always seem to be in survival mode).
   26. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 25, 2013 at 03:38 PM (#4396027)
Think how often we have elected military Generals to be our country's President (i.e., the ones who win at fighting are seen to be good leaders - I guess whether in childhood or adulthood we always seem to be in survival mode).


Well, the last 140 years or so ...

Eisenhower. And I think that's it.

Am I forgetting someone? Possibly so.
   27. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 25, 2013 at 03:46 PM (#4396040)
Well, the last 140 years or so ...

Eisenhower. And I think that's it.

Am I forgetting someone? Possibly so.


Wikipedia says Benjamin Harrison was the last general before Ike, and there haven't been any since then. Harrison was elected in 1888.
   28. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 25, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4396043)
Benjamin Harrison was a brigadier general in the Civil War, though he was promoted to that position in March of 1865 and wasn't exactly famous at the time.

I guess in this century it's just Eisenhower. T. Roosevelt achieved fame in the Spanish-American War, but was just a colonel and was there for a few months.

I see I own someone a sody.
   29. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 25, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4396054)
Ah. Offhand, I don't think I knew anything about Benjamin Harrison's background.
   30. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 25, 2013 at 04:00 PM (#4396067)
I knew one of those guys had that on his resume, so I looked up Harrison because I thought Cleveland and Garfield and Chester A. Arthur were too young.

Upon further inspection, apparently Arthur and Garfield were older than Harrison, despite the latter's Old Testament beard.
   31. McCoy Posted: March 25, 2013 at 04:07 PM (#4396076)
I don't think military leaders in the 19th century got elected because of some survival mode thing but because America didn't have a noble class that was bred to rule so the powers behind the throne tabbed military rulers to lead since out of all the employment classes out there the military leaders were the ones who played the political game the best within their own field while also showing that they could organize men, follow orders, and lead.

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