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The Amazing and Inspriational Life of Bum Phillips

October 21, 2013

I’ve hit backspace several times because I don’t really know how to start to explain how great of a person has left us. We live in a society of immediacy so many of you might not remember or know of the man known as Bum Phillips. I’ll try to explain as best I can.

Oail Phillips was his real name but he quickly developed the nickname “Bum”. His sisters have differing stories on how he got the nickname.  But he was anything but a “Bum”. He was the pride of Orange, Texas, part of the Golden Triangle of this great state. He never minded the nickname, he just didn’t want, “He was a” in front of it.

Bum Phillips would never allow you to call him a war hero. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Marines and fought in the Pacific. In his autobiography, Bum Phillips Coach, Cowboy, Christian which I highly recommend, Bum said that he just did what he had to do and felt that it’s everyone’s obligation to protect your country. He felt as though the guys who died fighting were the real heroes, not him. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the book benefit Bum Phillips charities which will be a common theme in this blog.

When you hear announcers say the “2” technique or the “5” technique this weekend during college or NFL games, that was created by Bum Phillips. He was also one of the originators of the 3-4 defense. He captured the heart of “Houstonians” with his Luv Ya Blue late 70’s Oilers. Despite falling short twice to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, they returned home to lined streets and a packed Astrodome. That’s how much the town loved the team as well as their coach, Bum Phillips. He wasn’t just a coach to the players. To many, he was more of a father figure. They weren’t just players to Bum, they were family.

I was fortunate enough to take many trips down to their ranch in Goliad to see Bum, his wife Debbie and the rest of their family. The fact is, when you enter their ranch, you become part of the family, that’s just how the Phillips family is. It wasn’t just humans that felt at home. Another time I visited, they were nursing an injured owl back to health.

It was more of a pleasure for him to take a picture with you than the opposite. I can’t remember how many times he said, “The pleasure is all mine”.  As John Lopez of SportsRadio 610 in Houston told me, “I have so many Bum stories and very few have to do with football which says all you need to know about the man. John shares his thoughts on Bum in his latest blog.

His sayings were one of a kind. So much that they developed their own name, “Bumism’s”. I remember having dinner with him one night in Houston. The restaurant was nice enough to bring over some appetizers. Bum dove in. He leaned in to me at one point and said, “They keep bringing it and I’ll keeping eating it.” The next time I saw him he asked how my wife was doing. I told him she was doing well and he replied, “What I can’t figure out is what a girl like that is doing with a guy like you? “

Most know him for football. Some know him for raising championship cutting horses which he had great success at as well. What you need to know is his tireless charity efforts. He teamed up with one of his former players Mike Barber to work with prison ministries. Bum Phillips charities have helped so many people. The Phillips family’s latest efforts were to build a camp for deaf children and their families on the ranch. Explaining it won’t do it justice so I’ve included the video from the Bum Phillips Charities website.

Even in lieu of flowers for his passing, the family has asked that you make a charitable donation to this cause. Once again, helping and thinking of others first. That’s just the Phillips way.

If there was a Mt. Roosevelt for Texas sports, the name Bum Phillips might not go to the top of the list. Bum would tell you that it would be ridiculous to even consider him. In fact, he’d probably want to be there for the ceremony to meet such legends.

That’s just the way he was and always will be remembered. Rest in peace Bum. I’m a better person because of you.

Gavin Spittle
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