ESPN 30 for 30 You Don't Know Bo: Jackson Should Have Only Played Baseball

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2012

1990:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals watches the flight of the ball as he follows through on his swing during a game in the 1990 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the latest ESPN 30 for 30 film, director Michael Bonfiglio takes a look at the career of Bo Jackson in the documentary You Don't Know Bo

It is difficult to come away from watching this feature without thinking that the incredible athlete would have been better off without playing in the NFL.

Only a select few of the best athletes in the world get a chance to play any sport at a professional level. Jackson was given the opportunity to play two.

The Auburn star excelled at football, leading him to be drafted with the first overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft. Of course, he was also great at baseball, and he was drafted in the fourth round of the MLB draft.

He would have been higher, but every team assumed he would choose football and selecting Jackson would be a wasted pick.

That is when the athlete made the best choice of his career when he picked baseball over football.

There are a number of reasons why anyone with the opportunity to make this decision should choose baseball.

First, the contract security of a baseball player is much better once you reach the major level. All contracts are guaranteed, regardless of performance or injuries.

On the other side, players could end up getting only a small percentage of an NFL contract. 

In addition, the longevity of a baseball player is much better than a football player, especially at Jackson's position.

An NFL running back usually breaks down in his late 20s, while an MLB outfielder can play deep into his 30s if he does not regress. Only a few running backs have ever been successful over 30 years old.

Finally, football is a much more physically demanding sport than baseball. Injuries occur in each, but the NFL provides more opportunity for serious, career-threatening accidents.

This is exactly what happened to Jackson in 1990. A tackle from behind caused a freak injury to his hip, which effectively derailed his career in two sports.

Prior to that moment, he was entering his prime as a baseball player. He made the All-Star game in 1989 and was an MVP candidate after hitting 32 home runs with 105 RBI. In 1990, he had a career-high .272 batting average.

Jackson showed the potential that could have given him a Hall-of-Fame career in baseball if he kept playing.

However, his decision to play football cost him this amazing run.

In recent years, a few other athletes have had a chance to make this choice.

Jeff Samardzija went to Notre Dame and played both football and baseball. He was an All-American receiver and could have potential went to the NFL. Instead, he decided to play baseball and has been on the Chicago Cubs for the last five years.

Kansas City Royals prospect Bubba Starling made this decision even earlier, selecting to bypass a scholarship to Nebraska in order to play baseball, according to Erick Smith of USA Today.

There are obviously risks involved in this decision. Baseball players have to go through years of playing in the minor leagues and could end up never reaching the majors. However, the choice is obvious if the player is good enough.

Bo Jackson could have been one of the best baseball players of his generation. Who knows how good he could have been if he had spent his offseason improving his game instead of playing football. 

Even though he was a great running back, his decision to play two sports eventually ruined his career in both. The best thing he could have done is to stay in baseball and become great in that one sport.