Everyone has that friend that constantly forces you to explain that, "He's really a great guy once you get to know him." Bum Phillips was not that guy. Everyone loved him even if they had never met him. If you did meet him? Well, then you really loved him.
When you're born in Houston, went to the same high school where Bum coached and Wade played QB, graduate from the same university where Bum played college football, and are a die-hard lover of all things Texan it's hard not to build up an image of Bum as a mythical, larger than life, hero who could never really live up to your expectations. Those lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Bum realised instantly that the myth really couldn't live up to the man.
He was exactly the same as his public persona, and was as genuine as they come. If Bum asked you how you were doing, it wasn't idle chit-chat. It was because he genuinely wanted to know. That's just how he treated people. I was lucky enough to meet Bum twice. Both were brief, and I can't claim to know him, but that doesn't mean it didn't have an impact.
One of the times I got to interact with Bum was at an autograph session. I have never been an autograph hound. Until then my collection of signed memorabilia contained exactly zero items(it's still the only autograph I have). This was THE Bum Phillips so I got in line. When I mentioned to him that my Dad graduated with Wade he asked me what my father's name was. He didn't recognize him, and I told him that was probably because my Dad was 5'6" and weighed 130 lbs in high school so he probably didn't have much use for him. He got a big smile on his face and agreed. Then I said that my Dad has always joked that Wade probably never would have passed high school English if he hadn't written a couple of papers for him(which may or may not be true). He looked me dead in the eye, and for just a second I thought I might have offended him. Then, he threw his head back and let out that signature laugh and said, "Well, he dang sure does know Wade."
We talked for a couple of minutes after that. Mostly about the "Golden Triangle" area that we both called home. That line moved slower than molasses because he refused to just herd people through. He could have just signed autographs one after the other and never said a word and everyone would have still been happy. To Bum though, that would have been rude and Bum didn't know any other way to be but gracious. It had nothing to do with PR.
Luv Ya Blue was a special time. Honestly, I was too young to truly be a part of it, but it's still something I identify with. Two of my earliest football memories; Running around in the back yard in my toy football helmet, with an oiler logo and 34 hand drawn on it, headbutting trees pretending to be Earl Campbell, and my Dad going ballistic because Bud Adams fired Bum. It's hard to explain to an outsider the relationship between the city of Houston and Bud Adams that led to the Oilers leaving town, but Bum getting fired is probably a good place to start. There's probably only one Houstonian who isn't still bitter about that decision and that's Bum. He knew there were only two kind of coaches.
You couldn't recreate that era if you tried. Hell, especially if you tried. It was just a matter of everything coming together in the right city with the right team at the right time. It never could have happened without Bum. He was always at the heart of Luv Ya Blue. I am as guilty of anyone as getting too wrapped up in "my teams". Obsessing over the draft, criticizing every little mistake, and letting losses trigger an unreasonable amount of anger. I look back and see 60,000+ people showing up to welcome a losing team home, and can't help but think it would be nice to get some of that back.
I've mellowed considerably as I've gotten older. If that Oiler loss to the Bills happened today the house wouldn't be in danger of getting destroyed...maybe. Still, at times like this I can't help but look back at the Luv Ya Blue era and try and remember what's important in life and what being a fan should be about. It should be about taking a break from all of the life's B.S. for a few hours to come together and support your team. It should be FUN.
That doesn't mean that we should accept mediocrity, or that losing is OK. Bum didn't believe in doing anything half-way. I just think it would do many of us a lot of good to remember that at the end of the day it is just a game. Debating that third down play call or who we should target in third round of the draft is half the fun. I also know that a Rah Rah attitude isn't going to stop a pick six. I'm not trying to tell anyone what kind of fan they have to be either. Y'all spend your money on the team just like I do, and you're free to act how you want. But if for a few hours on Sundays we can all ignore who the QB is, or whatever decision the coach made that we hate, and focus on cheering the Texans on win or lose we can make Reliant the loudest stadium in the league(Not while we're on offense of course) and just maybe we can recapture some of that Luv Ya Blue magic.
Whenever Houston finally, "kicks the son of a bitch in" Bum will be looking down with that huge smile.
Luv Ya Bum. Coach, Cowboy, Christian.
p.s. I would say for everyone to wear their Stetson to the next home game, but we all know the roof will be closed at Reliant and Bum would never approve of people wearing a hat indoors. That just aint polite.