Most of my life growing up was spent in big cities that usually had at least one major sporting (football, baseball, ice hockey…I’m not a basketball fan) teams: St. Louis (Cardinals, Cardinals, Blues), Houston (Oilers, Astros, Aeros), and Tampa Bay (Buccaneers were the only pro team there at the time).
From college and beyond though, I’ve never lived in a city with any professional sports teams. When I first moved to Tennessee there were no major teams anywhere in the state. I’ve made do with college for football and the Cards and/or Braves for baseball, but it just wasn’t the same. There’s just something more encompassing when you’re rooting for the hometown team.
My first real experience with this was during the late 70’s “Luv Ya Blue!”, Bum Phillips days of the Houston Oilers. Its not often that a coach is beloved by a team’s fans, but he was an icon. He led the Oilers during several of their most successful seasons in the toughest division at that time. Blue Fever ran rampant in Houston and its suburbs.
During the playoffs, the Oilers were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl champions over the next three years. The owner, Bud Adams, then fired Bum and enraged a city. Losing Bum broke the magical trinity that existed between coach, team and its fans. Its been 33 years and I still hold a grudge against Bud Adams (and the Pittsburgh Steelers who blocked the way to the Super Bowl two of those final three years).
I had written the above portion of this post last weekend, prior to learning the sad news of Bum Phillips’ death on Friday. I had intended to end about never finding that same connection to a team, but I really just don’t have the words anymore.
Many call him a legend, but he’d probably disagree with you about that. He was humble that way. He once said that his home may have been in Goliad (his ranch in Texas), but his heart was in Houston. He loved Houston and we loved him right back.
Rest in Peace, Bum.
“If I could be remembered for one thing, that would be for being myself. You may not always be right, but you do what you think is right. If you’re wrong, have the ability to admit it. Both are damned important.” ~Bum Phillips