DENVER — Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be coaches. Don't let 'em run projectors till until all hours of the morning, until some scatter-brain running back fumbles or some official leaves his glasses home and some oilman's kid decides to interrupt Christmas holiday to tell 'em they're history.
All that happened to Wade Phillips' daddy, Bum.
You can forget it, pilgrim. These are the sons of the pioneers.
These are men whose response to fate's haymakers is to make up things such as, "If you really want to keep the beer cold, put it next to my ex-wife's heart."
If you think that is so much country and western bull, check Bum's career. They foreclosed on his career while he was still a folk hero in Houston and got run out of New Orleans by popular demand. But he is not mad at Oiler owner Bud Adams and told Saint owner Tom Benson he did not have to worry about that $2 million they owed him, he was going home to the ranch.
And when Bum and Helen's baby boy arrived in Denver--where they munch ambitious assistants like nachos--to succeed a living legend, with the betting that he was going to be torn to shreds worse'n if he was riding Old Dynamite comin' out of Chute No. 2? Did Bum worry?
"Shoot, no," Bum says on the phone in the barn on his place in Rosharon, Tex.
"I think coaching is probably the best job in the Yew-nited States. There's not many jobs, you know, where you can get to the point where you can make more money than the President of the Yew-nited States."
Thus was Wade Phillips raised to love the game and brave its perils. He grew up to be a defensive coordinator, just like Bum was until Bum got famous and took over for Will Rogers.
Wade has just turned the NFL's No. 25 defense into the No. 3, which is the next thing to a miracle. Now he is on the verge of the big promotion, which means he could wear rodeo garb on the sideline, like Bum did, if he wanted.
"Wade is very low-key," said an NFL general manager. "He doesn't have all that corn-pone bull like Bum. He's a real good, solid coach. He's in the batter's circle now, as far as head coaching jobs, and he deserves to be there."
Better yet, Wade has been raised better than to fear defeat.
In Broncodom, where they are paralyzed at the thought of another Super Bowl rout, they could learn something from Wade's daddy.
Before you're tempted to write Bum off as some country phony . . .
In 1984, when his Saints' miracle was starting to fade, they went to Chicago, where Walter Payton was about to break Jim Brown's career rushing record.
Sure enough, Payton did. The Bears won and writers deluged the Saints' dressing room, asking about Payton. Bum, aggrieved, chased one off.
The man, a total stranger to Phillips, went over to the other side of the dressing room to talk to a player. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.
It was Bum, who had followed him across the room.
"I'm sorry I got the red . . . ," Phillips said. "Did you want to ask me about Walter?"
With Bum, what you saw on TV was what you got in person.
Of course, he was a long time getting on TV. . . .
Bum's career--and Wade's childhood--read like a Sun Belt road map: Nederland, Tex.; College Station, where he worked on Bear Bryant's Texas A&M staff; back to high school ball in Jacksonville, Tex.--"A real hole in the wall," said Helen--Amarillo, El Paso and Port Neches, Tex; Houston; San Diego for his first NFL job; Stillwater, Okla.; back to Houston; New Orleans.
"Oh dear," said Helen from Rosharon. "It tires me just to think of it.
"Seems like every time we moved, we got a new kid and a new car. Bum said there were two things he couldn't stand for the next-door neighbor to have, a new car or a new baby.
"I remember when Sid Gilman (then the Chargers' coach) called. Of course, Bum wasn't there. And he said, 'You think Bum would want to move?'
"My heart hit the bottom, you know. I had one in every school and kindergarten and was expecting a baby.
"He said, 'You think Bum will come?'
"And I said, 'I know he will.' "
Did the Phillipses, father and son, talk football at home?
"I'd have to talk to myself or my mother," Wade said, grinning. "My sisters didn't talk much football. My dad wasn't there a whole lot."
Wade was the oldest and the only boy. He helped raise his five sisters, since Bum was gone so much. When they had the youngest, Kim Ann, Wade drove his mother to the hospital and named the baby, too. Bum was out in San Diego, sequestered in a hotel for draft day with Gilman.
Wade went to the football field if he wanted to see the father he idolized. He gathered the footballs, sat in on meetings, you name it. One way or another, he always was on the staff.
"If you grew up in Texas and your dad was a head coach in high school and they're really successful, he's the big man in town," Wade said. "Everybody idolizes him because he's famous, in that little spot, anyway.