TURN BACK THE CLOCK
Here's what's really behind Oilers-Titans uniform controversy
For longtime Houston Oilers fans living here, a couple of dates are seared into our collective memories.
Perhaps the most triggering would be 30 years ago – January 3, 1993. On that fateful, icy day, our clearly Super Bowl-bound Oilers fumbled a comfortable playoff game lead against the Buffalo Bills, instead fell 41–38 in overtime, set the then-record for largest comeback in NFL history, and may have set the wheels in motion for the team to leave the Bayou City.
That brings us to another PTSD date for true Oilers fans: November 14, 1998, when the Oilers officially changed their name to the Tennessee Titans, after then owner Bud Adams announced after the end of the 1995 season that the team was moving to Nashville. That divorce paved the way for what are how the Houston Texans.
Worst of all for Oilers fans, Adams — who bailed on Houston when he couldn't get city funding for a new stadium — and the Titans would always retain all the Oilers team records, iconography, and history.
A slap in the face (mask)
Let's visit a new egregious date for Oilers fans: July 23, 2023. That's when the Tennessee Titans unveiled the throwback Houston Oilers uniforms they'll be wearing during the season. As CultureMap news partner ABC13 rightfully points out, the unveiling came with some fighting words from the Titans:
“Columbia Blue and red have returned to their rightful home.”
Wha? Funny, none of us who were here remember legendary Oilers coach O. A. “Bum” Phillips strolling the sidelines in his Texas rancher getup — in Tennessee. We didn't cheer on Hall of Fame running back/human tank Earl Campbell nearly breaking opposing linebackers in half from a stadium in Nashville. We didn't party on Broadway when quarterback Warren Moon and our Run & Shoot Oilers teams won big and became toasts of the NFL's IYKYK crowd for their fearsome offense and defense.
In short, how the hell is Tennessee the rightful home for Columbia Blue and red?
The Titans clearly are jawing at Oilers fans in their choice of Luv Ya Blue uni model. Derrick Henry, the closest thing in the current NFL to beloved Oilers mauler Earl Campbell, poses in the photo with a caption, “Oil Derrick.” (Oh, they're so clever.)
A Columbia Blue-and-red dividing line
Many fans celebrated and threw shade at Houston in the comments — "Incoming triggered Houston fans" typed one, while others had a sense of empathy: “This low-key disrespectful.”
Cheers from Titans fans make sense, but one comment from former Houston Chronicle pro football writer John McClain — nicknamed “The General” here for his Oilers coverage during the glory days — seems noticeably tone-deaf or just pure clickbait.
The Tennessee Oilers wore Oilers uniforms in 97-98, their first 2 seasons in Nashville. Nobody in Houston gave a hoot. In 99 they were renamed Titans and got new stadium, practice facility and uniforms that included some Columnia Blue. Nobody in Houston have a hoot. They do now!
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) July 24, 2023
Even McClain's former Chronicle sports writer John P. Lopez calls out his former colleague:
(Thread) This is verifiably not true, with all due respect to my friend The General. We will discuss today. In 1999, when it still seemed Houston would not get the 32nd NFL expansion team, the Chronicle surveyed more than 1,000 Houstonians re. the Oilers and Tennessee's team ... https://t.co/GXNHEm80rO
— John P. Lopez (@LopezOnSports) July 24, 2023
Not surprisingly, Justin James Watt — who's not from Houston but clearly bleeds H-Town — gets the pain and frustration felt by Houston Oilers fans. His tweet in support means far more than anyone else's, to many.
I lived in Houston for 10 years. My first training camp I met Bum Phillips. I was coached by Wade. I’ve seen first hand how much the people of Houston loved the Oilers. Earl, Bruce, Warren, Dr. Doom, etc. Luv Ya Blue is real.
So yeah it pains me for Houston and those fans. https://t.co/ncAR01a6BZ
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) July 19, 2023
Tennessee will don these
travesties uniforms for two home games, the team announced. No doubt, they'll be clad in Columbia Blue and red when the Texans face the Titans in Nashville for Week 15 on December 17. In a true twist of Luv Ya Blue fate, former Texans standout wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who lobbied for the Luv Ya Blue jerseys in Houston, is now on the Titans roster.
Have at it, Nashville
Here's the thing: Houston is the energy capital of the world. This is the home of Johnson Space Center and Mission Control, the world's greatest Medical Center, and the most diverse, dynamic, and friendliest populace in America. And let's not even get into Texas barbecue vs. Tennessee's.
According to current data, Houston's annual GDP is more than $537 billion. For a little comparison, the entire state of Tennessee produces around $367 billion. Houston is considered by many across the globe as a real world-class city and the greatest big-city opportunity market in America.
The Texans are reloading in a big way — on the field and off — with a just-signed franchise QB, a defensive monster, and a potential Coach of the Year — who hasn't even started yet. This is, after all, the home of Hakeem Olajuwon, Nolan Ryan, the two-time world champion Houston Rockets and Houston Astros, and the greatest pro football anthem ever. (Always worth a listen.)
Nashville is the home of ... Taylor Swift. But hey, that's something.
Houston has endured disrespects and slights forever and never missed a beat. While the country and world watched, we bravely weathered devastating hurricanes, pulled ourselves back up, and even opened our doors to others in need.
So, y'all can borrow our jerseys, Nashville. We're good.