HOUSTON – Friends and strangers remember Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips as an icon bigger than Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome combined.
Phillips wore Stetsons and boots. He also coached Houston’s “Luv Ya Blue!” Oilers. In the eyes of some, this man known as “Bum” galvanized this city.
“Bum was one of those people you thought was going to live forever,” said Barry Warner, a former sports radio personality. “There was just a presence about him that was just so much bigger than life. He was as big as the state of Texas.”
Ed Gifford, of Spring, still sings the Oilers fight song. He still wears Earl Campbell’s jersey around his home. Gifford even decorates with all things Oilers even though his favorite team is now called the Tennessee Titans.
“They’re just like family,” Gifford said.
Phillips made sure Gifford felt that way. The two met twice and twice he gave autographs.
“He was always friendly,” Gifford said. “I mean, he always had that smile on his face, always. When he talked to you, he talked to you like you were a person.”
“I’ve been blessed in so many ways to cover presidents, astronauts, great ball players, great leaders,” Warner said. “There is nobody, I repeat, nobody like Bum.”
Warner met Phillips in 1965, and last saw his friend in failing health two weeks ago.
“He said, Barry, I’m ready,” Warner said. “Look there ain’t nothing more for me to do. I’ve done it all.”
When Phillips passed, John Mecom Jr.’s phone rang.
“Dan Pastorini (a former Oilers’ quarterback who played for Phillips) called me and Dan was very, very close to Bum,” Mecom said. Mecom used to own the New Orleans’ Saints. He hired Phillips to coach but got much more.
“Everybody, and I don’t use that term loosely, that was close to Bum felt like he was their father in many ways,” Mecom said.
Those who didn’t still feel something close.
“He was such a dynamic personality,” Gifford said. “It’s like a light going out. When the light goes out, the Astrodome’s closed. Everybody’s gone. That’s the feeling right there.”