‘The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson’ by Jeff Pearlman (2022)

Some books you just know are going to be great. Every sports book by Jeff Pearlman is a must-read for me ever since first picking up ‘The Bad Guys Won’ years ago. Pearlman writes as only a great storyteller can – witty, funny, informative, and always insightful. Ever since watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary You Don’t Know Bo I have wanted to find a great book on Bo Jackson. Combine great writer and great subject and you get a book even better than expectations. It is quite simply a joy, as entertaining and enjoyable a sports book as you will find.

For those of us too young to have seen him play, Bo Jackson is a figure who is shrouded by mystery. An athlete of near unlimited potential, college football superstar whose pro-career in both baseball and football lives on more in memories and snippets than in medals and trophies.

Pearlman has captured Bo through the eyes of those who witnessed his sporting feats. Through extensive research and interviewing hundreds of people he brings to life Bo’s various triumphs and failures as well as capturing the lingering sense of what might have been. Pearlman leans in on the semi-mythological nature of Bo’s lingering fame – the fact that so many of his most outlandish moments came before the age when everything was recorded. While we video of so many of Bo’s enough remarkable feats to athleticism, the highlights of the book are those that only a lucky few saw and decades later still recall with awe.

The Last Folk Hero also captures Bo’s status as a pop culture icon. The level of fame he reached outstripped his achievements as a pro and his less charismatic personality. His uniqueness as an athlete capable of moments of unrivalled athletic ability created an aura and enthusiasm that

Bo himself remains something of a mystery. Unlike some bio’s this isn’t a forensic investigation of who Bo is a person. Instead it’s a retelling of the legend of Bo Jackson the athlete, the pop culture sensation, the icon. The parts of Bo we do see present a balanced view of a man living an extraordinary life. Pearlman captures moments of great heart and humanity as well as moments of arrogance and ego.

This is such an entertaining read I cannot recommend it highly enough. It captures something wonderful about why we watch sport and why mere mortals want to see feats of seemingly superhuman athleticism. Read it, enjoy it and fire up YouTube along the way.

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