The rollercoaster ride of Oilers football

By ED WETTERMAN

Man, I Miss Ya Blue!

Houston and the Oilers became the perfect meld of city and a sports franchise, and just like the industry from which the team drew its nickname, life as an Oiler fan from 1960 through 1996 was a pure rollercoaster.

From winning back-to-back championships in the original American Football League to losing the first double-overtime game and the longest championship game in pro football history in 1962.

From consecutive 1-13 seasons in the 1970s to the greatest years of 1978, 1979, and 1980 with Luv Ya Blue! and Bum Phillips, the most beloved coach in the history of Houston.

From the Tyler Bowling Ball to Bad Moon Rising.

From Doctor Doom to the House of Pain.

For 37 seasons, Houstonians rode the ups, downs, and loop-de-loops of energy industry and football booms and busts together liked the Greezed Lightnin’ rollercoaster at Astroworld.

John Pirkle, author of Oiler Blues, subtitled that book The Story of Pro Football’s Most Frustrating Team.

That was an elegant understatement.

Stagger Lee, Son of Stagger Lee, and the firing of Bum left us angry and feeling as if hope had been ripped from us.

Twenty-four years later, the phrase “We need to look in the mirror” still makes Houstonians cringe, because we heard that phrase regularly during much of the Oilers’ existence.

And the game in Buffalo. The very thought of that one still hurts like crazy.

The only thing worse was the day when the franchise left Texas for Tennessee.

While the frustration was real, so was the love we had for our team, and those highs would almost erase any inklings of the lows.

We loved them so much until even after losing in the AFC Championship games of 1978 and 1979, Houstonians still lined the 610 Loop and filled the Astrodome late at night to welcome our team home with parties fit for Super Bowl champions.

Any die-hard Oiler fan who was alive at the time still tears up at those memories or while watching videos of that magical time.

The 1978 35-30 win over Miami when the Luv Ya Blue! Movement was born would later be regarded as one of the all-time best tussles in Monday Night Football history, and it still gives chills to those who had baby blue in their blood.  

The amazing exploits of the run-and-shoot offense under Jack Pardee are stamped indelibly in our memories, along with a glut of acrobatic touchdowns and, of course, the catch in Pittsburgh that inspired instant replay in the NFL.

From the first AFL draft pick Billy Cannon to the great Eddie George, we had great running backs to cheer.

Of course, the running back position also housed the all-time face of the franchise, Earl Campbell.

People who saw that big Astrodome scoreboard light up after the Tyler Rose scored a touchdown will never forget it, and neither will the defenders he ran over, around, or past.

At receiver, some of the greatest of their eras wore Oiler blue: Charlie Hennigan, Kenny Burroughs, Drew Hill, Ernest Givins, and Haywood Jeffries.

The quarterbacks were league-leaders, too: George Blanda, Dan Pastorini, Warren Moon, and Steve McNair, all of whom could light up opposing defenses with bombs at most any time.

Protecting those quarterbacks were some of the greatest offensive linemen in football history: Bruce Matthews, Mike Munchak, and Carl Mauck, among others.

These massive men pancaked defenders and opened huge holes for the running backs, often decisively winning the war in the trenches and setting up many of the great Oiler victories.

On the other side of the ball, defensive greats like Curly Culp, Robert Brazile, Elvin Bethea, Greg Bingham, Ray Childress, Kenny Houston, Johnny “Mr. Sandman” Meads, and Eugene Seals—the most popular scab player in Oilers history—regularly resurfaced the Astroturf with the carcasses of opposing players.

As part of some of the NFL’s best defenses, they delivered crushing blows and picked off passes while Krazy George banged his drum and whipped the Dome crowds into a deafening frenzy.

Conclusively, I still look back on my Oiler memories and feel only love for the team, the players, the coaches, and the fans, and I know many others still do, too.

So, yeah, we have lots of memories to discuss, explore, and enjoy. Buckle up and join us here on Miss Ya Blue! to relive the rollercoaster journey!

Ed Wetterman is a Native Houstonian and lifelong Oiler fan and historian. He is a teacher, genealogist, game creator, and writer who lived and died on Sundays with the Oilers. Ed has created many games such as “East Texas University: Degrees of Horror” and written short stories such as “HellFighter,” published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Football has always been one of his greatest passions. He experienced the highs and the lows of being an Oiler fan, and like many others, he was crushed when the Oilers left Houston. Writing for Miss Ya Blue! gives him an outlet for his Columbia Blue love.

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