When Frank Sinatra was 18, it was a very good year. Anything Goes opened at the Alvin Theatre in November and provided young Frank with a slew of Cole Porter material he would sing in his maturity:
What is it about an iconic professional sports team that leaves an enraptured fan base susceptible to that feverish feeling, independent of free will and swept up in the rising tide of excitement and possibility?
The lates "Luv ya Blue" Houston Oilers provide context, the relationship with their fans serving as professional football's definitive example of a torrid love affair between a city and a team.
After years of humiliation and embarrassment, in which the Oilers were cast as the NFL's laughingstock franchise of the early s, the Bum Phillips-Earl Campbell era ignited a frenzy unparalleled in NFL history.
If the Oilers were cursed with the misfortune of reaching the height of their powers when the Pittsburgh Steelers were entrenched as football's greatest dynasty, they were also blessed with the serendipity to embody the perfect team in the perfect town at the perfect time.
Never before or since has a professional team been welcomed home from a season-ending loss by throngs of fans estimated at anywhere from 50, toThe jubilation spread like wildfire from the Houston airport, through thousands of honking cars parked along the highway to a raucous late-night celebration at the Astrodome.
But this was a welcome city. It gives me chills, boss, every time I think about that. There was a knowing wink in his persona, which was variously described as that of a "square-dance caller" and a "refugee from the Grand Ole Opry.
He milked that persona to his advantage," former Oilers quarterback Dan Pastorini explains. He was sincere, though. It was no ploy.
That was how he grew up. There was no bull about the man. Before Phillips was hired as the franchise's fifth head coach in a six-year span, the Oilers were downtrodden, having lost 31 of 34 games during one stretch from to ' They had averaged barely three wins per year since the AFL-NFL merger, resulting in a situation so bleak that the city adopted a rival city's team: Once Phillips came aboard as defensive coordinator inthe Oilers immediately began overhauling the roster to suit his innovative scheme -- the first of its kind in the NFL.
Walter Payton's roommate at Jackson State, Brazile was a revelation as a rookie, quickly emerging as football's first great outside linebacker. He invented the position that Taylor perfected. From '75 to '79, he was Lawrence Taylor.
As talented as the revamped front seven was, Phillips deserves a lion's share of the credit for his brilliant strategy and uncanny timing on blitz calls.
Thompson praises Phillips today as a "defensive whiz kid, genius. The Oilers' quick turnaround went beyond Phillips' defensive mastery to the close-knit family atmosphere and refreshing, fun-loving outlook he instilled in the locker room.
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