Bo Knows Overrated

Bo-OverRatedFew could match Vincent Edward Jackson on a football field. The problem was getting him there.

No one doubts Bo Jackson’s rare combination of speed, agility and power. Following his senior year at Auburn University, Bo scorched the 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds—the fastest ever recorded[1]. Even if a defender had the wheels to catch Bo (most didn’t), Jackson often shucked and jived the poor sap out of his jock. Bo flattened any remaining defenders with his 221 pounds of unadulterated Alabama muscle. I don’t often encourage readers to leave these columns, but seriously, go search Bo Jackson highlights on YouTube.

Looking at the highlight reels, it makes perfect sense that Bo Jackson is Tecmo’s premier rusher. Bo’s mix of power and speed should put him atop Tecmo Super Bowl’s leader boards at the end of each season, right?

Wrong. Wrong, wrong wrong.

Bo Jackson didn’t once finish in the Top 10 of NFL rushers. Why? “Bo Knows.” Bo Jackson’s freakish, once-in-a-generation athleticism is precisely why he shouldn’t be Tecmo’s top rusher.

Coming out of Auburn, Jackson made quite clear his preference for baseball. However, in the spring of 1986, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ owner Hugh Culverhouse flew to Auburn, set on wooing Bo Jackson. Holding the top pick of the 1986 NFL Draft, Culverhouse fantasized of Creamsicle Bo. Culverhouse assured Jackson their wine-and-dine meetings wouldn’t negatively impact Bo’s college eligibility.

Hugh Culverhouse was wrong.

As a result of Culverhouse’s visits, the NCAA revoked Bo Jackson’s baseball eligibility. Furious, Jackson vowed to never play for Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay underestimated Jackson’s resolve and made Bo Jackson the first pick in the 1986 NFL Draft. Jackson, true to his word, refused to sign. Instead, Bo Jackson caught on with Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals. That would have been that; Bo would have enjoyed an All-Star baseball career and our only 8-Bit Bo would have came via R.B.I. Baseball 3 or Bo Jackson Baseball…had it not been for Al Davis.

In the 7th round of the ‘87 NFL Draft, Al Davis’ Los Angeles Raiders selected Bo Jackson. As Jackson hadn’t signed with Tampa Bay, he retained NFL Draft eligibility. Davis, learning from Tampa’s blunder, offered a contract which allowed Bo to finish each baseball season before joining the Raiders.

Enticed by Davis’ offer, Bo signed with the Raiders and became one of the greatest running backs to ever lace his cleats.

But because of his “Bo Knows” 2-sport fame, Jackson never appeared in more than 11 games in an NFL season. Baseball was Bo Jackson’s job. Football was an off-season hobby[2]. If Tecmo Super Bowl’s season mode is indeed meant to be a simulation of NFL football, there is no way Bo Jackson should appear atop the leader board at season’s end.

To simplify, TSB Bo Jackson is overrated.

The original Tecmo Bowl solved the issue by only giving Jackson one rushing play. In Tecmo Bowl, LA’s “Run 1” runs Bo off-tackle left. “Run 2” sweeps Marcus Allen out to the right. The backfield split mirrored LA’s offense: at best, Bo shared time with Marcus Allen. So if your big brother wanted to completely neutralize Bo Jackson, he’d just pick “Run 1” every time and defend the crap out of the bottom half of the screen until you threw your controller into the NES deck[3].

Tecmo Super Bowl’s increased complexity, however, makes it difficult to accurately limit Bo Jackson. The ability to swap plays and roster positions means a player can fill the top of their play-calling sheet with Bo Jackson’s name. Even in LA’s stock playbook, sharing the Raiders’ backfield with Marcus Allen, Bo’s ridiculous speed often vaults him to the top of TSB’s yards per rush and overall yardage lists.

If we want to accurately represent the NFL[4], Bo Jackson should be finishing Tecmo seasons with 900-ish yards. To achieve this in Tecmo Super Bowl we need to alter two things.

First—and please, put down your pitchforks—we should decrease Bo’s Max Speed and Hitting Power. Dropping Bo from 75 to 69 would still make him TSB’s fastest player. And if we nudge Bo Jackson from 31 Hitting Power to 25, we give CPU defenders a better shot at taking him down before he can break out an 80 yard run.

The other change comes to LA’s playbook. There are too many plays which utilize Bo Jackson. Bo’s plays should be greatly restricted so that, at most, he can appear twice on the play-calling page. And the Raiders’ pre-loaded playbook should only feature Jackson once[5].

Do the above changes accurately represent Bo’s abilities? Of course not. Bo’s speed and power ratings in Tecmo Super Bowl are well-earned. The dude ran a 4.12 40-yard dash. If anything, his 75 Max Speed is too low! And by Tecmo standards, Bo’s 31 Hitting Power is rather modest. But if the goal is to accurately reflect NFL stats in a TSB season, changes must be made.

The ideal fix would alter TSB‘s ROM data to make Bo unavailable until week 5 or 6. Given the already cramped space in the existing TSB cart[6], those changes simply weren’t possible in 1990. Tecmo programmers would have had to insert checksums and subroutines they didn’t have space for, all for a single player.

Bo Jackson was the best player when he stepped onto a football field. The problem Tecmo Super Bowl ignores is that Bo Jackson often chose to step onto a Baseball diamond instead.

[1] It should be noted Bo Jackson’s 40 time is the subject of some dispute. Although The NFL has never kept “official” records of scouting combine results, Chris Johnson’s 4.24 is widely recognized as the fastest time. The problem is that the NFL only began electronically timing the 40-yard dash in 1999. The International Association of Athletics Federations says to add 0.24 seconds to any hand-timed sprinting event for an accurate time. This would make Bo’s 4.12 a 4.36 (still crazy fast). HOWEVER, Jackson maintains his lightspeed 40 isn’t a hand-timed fluke. In 1986, Bo ran an electronically-timed 40-yard dash of…4.13 seconds.

[2] Sweet sassy molassy! Can you imagine if it were the other way around? If, like Deion Sanders, Bo had played football full-time and baseball in the offseason? I don’t think the NES processor could have calculated those astronomical stats.

[3] Theoretically.

[4] I know, I know, if we really want to accurately represent the NFL, we’d have to get rid of the 110 yard endzone-to-endzone passing, 80 yard field goals, and put commercials between every damn play, but one thing at a time, people.

[5] Of course, a player could then simply swap Marcus Allen and Bo in the backfield, but there’s only so much we could theoretically do.

[6] A surprising amount of ROM space was allocated to voice samples, allowing the QB’s infamous, “Ready! Down! Hut hut hut…” and “Touchdown!” calls.


Keith Good

Keith Good is a future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and 8-bit game geek. A perpetual optimist, he convinces himself every September that this could finally be the Cleveland Browns' year. He was once told to eff off by one of the Tecmo Browns. You can check out his other work at www.keithisgood.com and follow him on twitter @keithisgood.

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