Any suspicions that Bo Jackson might be cooped up in a $4 million condo now that he's facing an offseason for the first time

in his life; that he might be feeling sorry for himself and breaking 38-ounce bats over his forearms; that he might be home kicking his dog with his good hip and eating more than he should and watching kung fu movies all afternoon long; any of these suspicions were effectively dashed yesterday at the Salt Palace.There, big as life but not quite as big as his Nike billboards, was Bo Jackson, the onetime outfielder and running back, who, as he shifted his weight from one crutch to the other, wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: "I won't let my injury get me down," he said.

Actually, he wanted to make two things perfectly clear. The first thing was that he is this year's Honorary Chairman of the Children's Miracle Network Telethon. The Children's Miracle Network (CMN) benefits 160 hospitals for children throughout the U.S. and Canada, including the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake, and expects to raise close to $100 million from its nationwide telethon this year,

scheduled to be broadcast from Disneyland on June 1-2.

CMN is headquartered in Salt Lake City. Jackson's appearance yesterday was in conjunction with the network's pre-telethon convention in the Salt Palace, attended by representatives from its participating hospitals and the 185 television stations that will participate in this year's 21-hour TV show.

"It's a pleasure to be here, a pleasure to be involved," said Jackson, not sounding at all like someone wracked and tormented over his fate.

"All that's happened could have been for good reasons," he said. "Who knows? One of (those reasons) could have been that it made it possible that I could be here, doing what I'm doing now."

The Miracle Network officials weren't arguing. Jackson's recent medical problems at least made it possible for him to be available from April through June, instead of being tied up in the Kansas City Royals outfield.

"This is the first time off I've had in five and a half years," Bo said yesterday, gesturing with his crutches for effect. He said he is under doctor's orders to use the crutches as much as possible - to rest his left hip that was dislocated and fractured late last December in an NFL playoff game. A resultant complication believed to be avascular necrosis - a condition that hinders blood supply to the hip bone - prevented the football-baseball star from beginning the 1991 season with the Royals, and that was just the start of it. The majority opinion from the medical community is that Jackson will never be able to come back and compete on a professional level in either baseball or football.

His opinion, however, is that his condition is curable, and he will be back as quickly as possible.

"I had a checkup two weeks ago," he said, "That was one month (into rehab), and the prognosis was better than a month ago. Things are going better and better. I'm looking forward to when I can get back to doing what I do second best."

And what does he do first best?

"Why, this," he said, "working with kids."

He explained that he became acquainted with the Children's Miracle Network after his oldest son needed eye surgery. "The things the doctors did to correct his sight really made me feel good," said Jackson. "I sat down with the people from CMN and we talked. I was happy to get involved."

Jackson said his recent personal relationships with surgeons and hospitals have only heightened his awareness of the need for good medical care, and the tendency of human nature to take good health for granted.

"I think we all take medical problems for granted, until they happen to us," he said. "I'm not saying I took my health for granted. In the field I'm in, injuries come with the territory. You have to expect that. But you don't really look at it until you have to, until it smacks you in the face."

After injury smacked Bo in the face, he picked himself up, and flew to Salt Lake City. He took the punch all right. Bo knows rehab. Baseball's loss became the CMN Telethon's gain. That much was obvious yesterday at the Salt Palace. As an everyday player, he may take this year's telethon right over the $100 million top. Just because you can't run doesn't mean you can't hustle.



Hip injury

Bo Jackson is said to be suffering from two conditions stemming from a football injury to his left hip.


Destruction of cartilage in the hip joint.

Avascular Necrosis

Partial loss of blood supply to the head of the femur, the "ballo" in the ball-and-socket hip joint. This condition is probebly a consequence of a hip dislocation and fracture that he sustained in an AFC divisional playoff game on Jan. 13.