Thank You Bum for Luv Ya Blue
@sonofbum "Bum is gone to Heaven-loved and will be missed by all -great Dad, Coach and Christian"
I felt silly at first, crying about the death of someone I'd never actually met, and I wondered why news of his passing was hitting me so hard. Finally I clicked on one of the links to the many YouTube videos that were being tweeted right-and-left after the news came out, and then I remembered the times a little more clearly...
With all due respect to the 2-time NBA champion Houston Rockets of the mid-90s, and to the still-in-the-cute-little-puppy-stage Texans that we so badly want to be big dawgs, I think the Luv Ya Blue era of the Houston Oilers is still the most special time in Houston sports history. Bum Phillips was a real Texas cowboy who happened to coach football, and Houston loved him and the Oilers dearly. Bum's personality was so perfect for his team, and so perfect for this town at that time, that it was a match made in heaven. He and his team were so beloved, Houston overlooked their losses to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1978 and 1979 AFC Championship Games, greeting them by the tens of thousands upon their return to Houston, late at night, two years in a row. I didn't get to go to those pep rallies in the Astrodome, but I saw them on television back then, and I watched footage again the other night. It was amazing...there was so much camaraderie, so much love.
"Winning is only half of it. Having fun is the other half." ~ Bum Phillips
Watching some of those videos the other night, I remembered a few things I hadn't really thought of in a while. My mom enjoyed watching sports more than my dad did. When I was in my last few years of high school, I noticed she was starting to get more and more animated whenever she had an Oilers game on tv on Sundays. Despite being a "cool" teenage girl who didn't want to appear too interested in sports or in anything that my mother was doing, I casually started taking longer glances at the television that was blaring some oom-pa-pa song about the Houston Oilers being #1. I noticed that everybody in the stands was as excited as my mom, practically dancing to that gosh-awful song as they were waving powder blue-and-white pompoms. Before I knew it, I was hooked on guys like Earl Campbell, Dan Pastorini, and Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, but most of all, I was hooked on the corny ol' cowboy guy, Bum Phillips. Bum was what made it all fun! How could you not watch?! And that, well that was the birth of a HouTxFan.
"There's two kinds of coaches, them that's fired, and them that's gonna be fired." ~ Bum Phillips
Sadly, for both of them really, Bum became the kind of coach that got fired when Oilers' owner Bud Adams let him go after the Oilers' 1980 wildcard playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders. While Bum was talking to a referee during a game, and not to Bud Adams, when he said...
"Now, you can't do that! If you do it, I'm telling you, you'll have more hell over it than a little bit!" ~ Bum Phillips
...he might as well have been talking to the Oilers' owner. By firing the wildly popular coach, Adams hastened his fall into persona non grata status with Houston fans. The owner, the coach, and team...they just never really recovered from the fallout of that decision. Bud Adams broke Houston's heart when he fired Bum Phillips, and he broke it again when he took the Oilers away. That sealed the two men's fate...Bum will forever be revered, and Bud will always be reviled, in Houston. Years later, during his son Wade's tenure as the head coach of some team north of Houston, Bum was asked which NFL team he rooted for, and he cemented his status in Houston lore by saying...
"You've got to understand something. I live in Goliad, but my heart's in Houston." ~ Bum Phillips
So even though the news of Bum's passing made me cry Friday night, I enjoyed the trip down memory lane. It made me think about how seamlessly Bum had kind of slipped back into the fabric of Houston football after all those years between the death of the Oilers and the birth of the Texans. It was almost as if he was our coach emeritus, Houston's coach, not the former coach of some team in Tennessee! It felt so right when he played a part in helping us host the Super Bowl in 2004, when his @sonofbum came home to Houston to coach, and when I saw pictures of him talking with Texans' players at training camp. Bum was still a part of Houston football, just like he always had been, just like he always will be, just like it was meant to be. And then I finally realized the other night, just like losing a favorite uncle, it was o.k. for me to shed a few tears about his passing. Thank you Bum, for giving me Luv Ya Blue!