Vaught's Views: Son, father 'survive' being apart at end of season

May 10, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If things had worked the way Bo Buchanan dreamed, he would have been in New York Sunday night watching his father, Tom Buchanan, win $1 million for being the Survivor All-Star winner on CBS instead of Amber Brkich.

That would have helped offset the hurt both of them felt when getting picked to be on CBS' highly-rated show also meant that Tom Buchanan had to miss his son's final three football games at Cumberland College because that's when the show that ended Sunday night was being filmed in the jungle of Panama.

Because my son has played with Bo Buchanan the last two years, I had a chance to meet and get to know Big Tom - the nickname he earned on Survivor Africa. He's as down to earth in person as he is on the TV screen. He may say, or do, anything, but you always know what he's thinking.


I knew how proud he was of his son, who was Cumberland's top tackler the last two years and also the 2002 Mid-South Conference Defensive Player of the Year because of his exceptional play at linebacker. I knew how much missing his son's last three games, especially when Cumberland still had a chance to earn its first NAIA playoff berth in Bo's four years, pained him.

"He didn't want to miss, but he knew it would be stupid for him not to go," Bo Buchanan said after Sunday's show during a telephone interview. "It tore him up pretty bad. He didn't know how we finished and to miss my last three games considering he had hardly ever missed watching me play really hurt him. But we survived even if we neither one got the ending we wanted."

Because Cumberland lost its final game and didn't make the playoffs, Bo Buchanan did get to visit his father in Panama and take part in a celebrity challenge that aired two weeks ago.

"I was pretty sure we would get to do something. I just didn't know what," Bo Buchanan said.

What he found out he would have to do in order to spend a night with his father was eat a variety of items faster than family members of the other five Survivor all-stars that were left at that time.

"When I found that out, I was afraid because I've got a weak stomach," Buchanan said.

It didn't show. He ate rotten fish. He ate a fish head. In the final test, he devoured a live worm - whole.

"I just swallowed it like a pill. I threw up after the fish, but not after the worm," Buchanan said.

His father realized because his son was in Panama, instead of playing football, that Cumberland had missed the playoffs. Still, his son got to relive those last three games with him as well as tell him that he had been invited to a tryout with the Kentucky Horsemen, a tidbit Tom Buchanan mentioned on last week's show before he was voted off.

Bo Buchanan was sworn to secrecy about the show. He had no idea how his father was doing until he got a call to make the trip to Panama, and he was not allowed to discuss any part of the show with friends. He says that wasn't always easy when several Cumberland football players would gather weekly to watch the show.

"I couldn't say a word. I loved watching, though, with my friends," he said. "My father made the show. I'm biased, but it was fun to watch him. He didn't change a lick from how he is every day. I guess not being able to play mind games and deceive people was his downfall. He plays honest. That's how we are. We lose with dignity. It's pretty much the same way he taught me to play football."

Still, it hurt Bo Buchanan when "Boston Rob" Mariano joked on air after he left that he was a "bigger dumb---" than his father. It hurt even more when Boston Rob broke an alliance with his father and got him voted off after 36 days rather than taking him to the final four for Sunday's finale.

"In person, I liked Boston Rob," Bo Buchanan said. "But I didn't know what he was saying behind the scenes. All I know is that he ain't my friend and he didn't know me well enough to say that, or do what he did to my daddy. I told him what I thought about that when I got to New York. If we all weren't under contract, I might have punched him out for what he did."

Big Tom did angrily confront Boston Rob not only at the final tribal council while they were in Panama for voting him off, but also on Sunday night's show for what he said about his son.

But that's the Buchanans. They say what is on their mind and hide nothing. Bo Buchanan plays as hard and fearlessly as any football player I've ever seen. It's no wonder his father said on the Survivor Web site after he was voted off that letting his son be part of the Survivor experience made everything worthwhile for him, even though he didn't win.

"Life is not a fairy tale," Bo Buchanan said. "If it was, he would have won last night and Cumberland would have been in the playoffs. That's what we both wanted when he agreed to go do the show and miss my games.

"It hurt me not having him there. The last game when we lost it was really hard not having him there to hug me up the way he can. I needed that. It's just different with your father when you are a player. No one else can help you the way he can.

"But he told me he thought about me all the time and that every Saturday at 1 p.m. he would stop whatever he was doing on the island and play his own football game and think of me. How cool is that?"

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