Here's what's really behind Oilers-Titans uniform controversy

Here's what's really behind Oilers-Titans uniform controversy
Have the Titans gone too far? Photo by George Rose/Getty Images.
Lost Ya Blue:  Returning the Oilers to Houston, and what it will take.

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.

Even McClain's former Chronicle sports writer John P. Lopez calls out his former colleague:

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.

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.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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