STRANGE BUT TRUE: This season's Texas entry into the deep, dark reaches of the NFL playoffs isn't exactly America's Team. Fact is, the Houston Oilers aren't even Houston's Team. Nobody is quite sure what they are, but whatever it is, they sure are hard to get rid of.
Not-Even-Houston's Team was supposed to have jumped ship to Jacksonville by now. It's a team that spats with its own fans and the local press, a team with a headhunter rep, a team whose uniforms come equipped with shoulder chips. Not only that, the team isn't much fun at weddings. Last September the general manager, Ladd Herzeg, showed up at a Buffalo hotel wedding reception he wasn't invited to in sweatpants and a T-shirt. Seems that Ladd had come down to complain about the noise, and he reportedly wound up slugging the bride's brother.
Uncharacteristically, Herzeg's boys aren't backing down either. On Sunday in the Astrodome they defeathered the Seattle Seahawks 23-20 in overtime in the AFC wild-card game. The Oilers should have won by two touchdowns. Instead, they needed a 42-yard field goal from Tony Zendejas, who could have saved himself a Stress-Tab by making a game-sealing 29-yarder with 1:47 to go in regulation. Still, the win was stirring. In fact, the Oilers' spunky sergeant at arms, coach Jerry Glanville, was so fired up that he said, "We're two games away. We're going to San Diego."
Boastful, you say? Cocky, even? You say this guy makes the Boz look modest? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
Glanville's Gang is waging all-out dislike on the country. It even says so on the team's playoff T-shirts, which were designed by Glanville himself. On the front is an Oilers helmet pitted against a map of the US. Get it? The Helen Reddy school of football: You and me against the world. "Great," says Houston cornerback Steve Brown. "The 49ers gets bonuses. We get T-shirts."
The 49ers, not to mention every other team in the league, also get a lot more attention from the national media. "We haven't been on Monday Night Football since 1980," says Glanville. "We're too ugly." Of course, the fact that Houston has done a lot of losing in recent years may account for the lack of glitz time, too. Until this season the Oilers hadn't had a winning record since their 11-5 finish in 1980, after which they fired coach Bum Phillips.
After Sunday's victory Glanville said, " The New York Times was here today. They discovered us by accident. They were here covering a bowl game."
Glanville has enjoyed a hate-hate relationship with the press all season. Herewith a further sampling of his witticisms on the subject:
?"Three weeks ago, one of the local [TV] channels wanted to have me fired. Now they want to do a special on me."
?"If we win our [next] two, even our local media could be on our side, although there are no guarantees."