Tecmo Bowl Franchise Largely Responsible for Bo Jackson’s Football Legacy

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We all remember the “Bo Knows” Nike ads and the highlights of Bo Jackson running up the wall in center field to catch a fly ball. We remember him breaking the bat over his knee. We remember the highlight of him running over Brian Bosworth at the goal line.

Take a moment now and try to remember another highlight from Bo Jackson’s career on the football field. To be honest, the only one I can think of is the run where he broke his leg, after which he would never play again.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t have a lot of football memories of Bo Jackson outside of the digital version of him running for touchdowns on what seemed like the longest football field in the world in the Tecmo and Super Tecmo Bowl games in the 80s and 90s.

The fact of the matter is, Jackson didn’t really do much in the NFL. He played during four seasons. Don’t confuse that with “he played four full seasons.” Because of his baseball career, Bo Jackson never player an entire NFL season. The most games he ever logged in one year was 11 in 1989.

Bo Jackson finished his football career with a total of 38 games played, 2782 rushing yards and 16 career rushing touchdowns. That’s it. This man who we have all labeled as an immortal and a legend barely averaged over 73 rushing yards and less than a half of a touchdown per game. His career numbers were on par with what BenJarvis Green-Ellis put up in 2012 for the Bengals.

Anybody see that series of new and exciting BenJarvis Green-Ellis Nike commercials? That’s what I thought.

That fact of the matter is that Bo Jackson was a freakish athlete with world class speed. He was the first modern athlete to successfully (somewhat) balance two separate careers in two different sports. He had moments of greatness, but by and large, Bo Jackson was simply an average professional football player.

I honestly believe the bulk of his legacy is due to the Nintendo Entertain System. We remember playing as and against the L.A. Raiders and watching Bo Jackson scream past hilariously awful video game defenses in Tecmo Bowl every time the opponent didn’t push the right combination of buttons to select the one play where he carried the ball. In my opinion, no athlete in the history of professional sport benefitted from a video game more than Bo Jackson.

I’ve actually been in rooms where guys my age try to describe how awesome Bo Jackson was, only to draw a blank when trying to remember specific things he did — often redirecting the conversation to how tough he was to stop in Tecmo Bowl. I’ve never seen anything like it and doubt I ever will again. Imagine someone trying to describe how awesome Scottie Pippen was and only being able to strengthen his argument by describing how awesome of a dunker he was in NBA Jams.

Just remember that the next time you are around a bunch of friends or at a bar and you start talking football. When someone brings up how great Bo Jackson was (and they will), challenge them. Ask them how many touchdowns he scored or to describe a great play he made without mentioning Brian Bosworth. You’ll be surprised how much of their memory of him is based on a video game.

BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 9, 2013

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4 thoughts on “Tecmo Bowl Franchise Largely Responsible for Bo Jackson’s Football Legacy

  1. June 10, 2013 at 4:32 am

    You do realize that you forgot one of the most important stats for a running back in the NFL, right? That stat is YPC. The immortal Jim Brown is officially the top running back in that category at 5.2 YPC. Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders? 5.0 YPC. The only reason Bo Jackson isn’t the top running back in NFL history at 5.4 YPC is because his career was cut short before he reached the minimum number of carries necessary.

    Think about that. No other running back in the history of the NFL could you count on to get you more yards every time he touched the ball than Bo Jackson.

    Since, for some reason, you can’t recall more highlights of Bo, then maybe you should go ahead and look them up on Youtube. I guarantee you will garner an appreciation for him.

  2. admin
    June 10, 2013 at 10:05 am

    I am aware of his YPG, which is impressive. That said, he had such a small amount of carries each year that one or two 80 or 90 yard carries worked wonders for that average. Jim Brown broke one 80 yard run during his entire career. Walter Payton never had one. Sanders broke 80 twice in his 10 year career.

    Sayers had the most similar career to Jackson in terms of potential and it being cut short. That said, he did highlight-reel damage by catching the ball and returning punts and kicks on a regular. Sorry if it makes it sound like breaking long runs is a bad thing, but it seems as though that was Jackson’s best trait. He wasn’t the workhorse that Brown, Payton, Emmitt Smith or even Barry Sanders was. He was a home run hitter with the potential to be more, it just never panned out for him because of injuries and limited carries.

    I have much respect for him as an athlete, but to be in the conversation for greatness, you gotta have the numbers. Bo, be it injury or the way he was used, just doesn’t have the numbers. It happens. He was an exciting athlete with great speed, I just don’t feel he belongs in the conversation with all-time greats, which I hear often.

  3. Nana
    June 10, 2013 at 11:39 am

    You must be kidding. I am hopeful that this is simply meant to garner a reaction and not actually be taken as a serious, fact based article.
    If you (and the friends your age who you mention) don’t have memory of any specific plays that Bo made on the field, I suggest you look them up as the initial responder suggested. The fact that you refer to his career ending with a “broken leg” despite the media barrage over recent years replaying his hip injury, suggests that you were not paying attention to Bo at all…which is ok… But to say that you don’t remember what was accomplished by somebody who you weren’t paying any attention to does not make sense. Not if you’re planning on sharing anything more than an opinion founded on nothing.
    Now, if we as readers are to take your points seriously i must ask, how many plays should we as fans/ readers remember in order to validate one’s status as a star? Elway, Kelly, Namath, Marino, Dorsett, OJ, Bird, Worthy, Barkley… Even Pippen who you mention. How many highlights did they have (in the pre-YouTube/ social media/ easy video access era) that make them worthy of respect and fan adoration? Should we only revere those who help us win fantasy sports and get nicknames from Chris Berman?

  4. Shawn
    August 17, 2013 at 1:22 am

    Not only did Bo possess world class speed, he also displayed great power, lowering his shoulders and running through many opponents. He also had great hands. Bo Jackson was a freak of an athlete. If he would not have broke his leg, he would have the numbers you speak of. I’m 35 and I remember how awesome he was in Super Tecmo Bowl, but to say that is the only reason he is remembered by countless thousands of sports fans as one of the greatest runners of all time is a bit of a stretch. Fact is you probably have never even played football beyond your Xbox 360.

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