Where Are The Tributes?
Jim Nantz: Bum Phillips death deserves more national respect, not just Houston love
KANSAS CITY — Jim Nantz watches as much of the NFL pregame shows as he can, looking for something he never finds. A Bum sighting.
"I thought Bum Phillips' passing deserved more notice on the NFL pregame shows," CBS Sports lead voice tells CultureMap. "I'm not talking about our show. I didn't even get a chance to see our show. But watching the various shows . . . for what Bum Phillips meant to football and the NFL in Houston, it deserved more attention."
Nantz is sitting in the Arrowhead Stadium broadcast booth a few hours before Chiefs-Texans. He's happy to be at this game, to have the Houston Texans this week. It gives him a chance to do what he can to right the wrong.
"For what Bum Phillips meant to football and the NFL in Houston, it deserved more attention."
"I'm glad I get to talk about Bum and give him some of the respect he deserves," Nantz says. "We were just discussing when we're going to work it into the game. It will be brief. We have a game we have to focus on for the viewers.
"But we'll talk about Bum and what he meant to so many people."
Part of the problem, Nantz believes, is that Phillips did his best work for a Houston Oilers franchise that bolted town for Tennessee. There are fewer natural advocates for Phillips than most coaches of his stature have. Nantz cringes when he hears people who knew the 90-year-old Bum Phillips mainly as the father of current Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips — or people who reduce him to a cowboy hat-wearing, folksy character rather than an innovative football mind.
"If you look at how little of a time Bum actually was in Houston (six seasons as head coach), it's remarkable how much of an impact he had," Nantz says. "You'd think he'd been there for a lot more years than he was."
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt gave Nantz another chance to talk about Bum when he paid his due respects by tipping an imaginary cowboy hat after sacking Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith in the fourth quarter.
Nantz — who considers Houston his hometown — was in the city for the heart of the Luv Ya Blue years. He covered Bum's Oilers as a freelancer for KTRH radio while he was still a student at the University of Houston and will always remember how kind the veteran coach treated the kid reporter.
"I went from living in the University of Houston dorms during the school year to living in the San Angelo dorms (where the Oilers held training camp) in the summer," Nantz says. "I was just a kid and I obviously wasn't used to being around pro coaches and players of that caliber.
"And Bum really welcomed me with open arms and treated me with great respect."
Years later, Nantz made sure that Bum Phillips played a major rule in the 2004 Houston Super Bowl Salute — the announcer's idea for what essentially turned into the first Super Bowl opening ceremonies. "I heard later that Bum didn't feel like he belonged with all those other superstar athletes and coaches," Nantz says. "And really, he was the center of it all.
"All the players wanted to be around him. They gravitated to him. He's the coach everyone wanted to be around."
Nantz shakes his head, smiles. On this Sunday, he gets to bring a little bit of Bum Phillips to America.