Bud Adams, one of a kind for Football in Houston


Bud Adams was a lot of things.  For all of his accomplishments one thing he is not, surprisingly, is an NFL Hall of Famer.  It was his fondest wish to see that oversight corrected, hoping this would be the year.

“I don’t like tooting my own horn”, Adams told the Nashville Tennesseean on being nominated on the 2014 ballot, “But at my age, and now being the senior NFL owner, there is no one from back in those days that can really speak up for me now.  I really feel this could be the year I get serious consideration.  I’m sure hoping that’s the case.”

“Those days” that Bud Adams referred to were the days in the late 1950s when he was denied an opportunity to purchase the Chicago Cardinals and become an NFL owner.  In 1959 he and other businessmen who were denied an opportunity to buy their way into the NFL ownership fraternity took matters into their own hands by starting their own football franchises. Along with the late Lamar Hunt,  Adams founded a league for those franchises, the American Football League, which began play in 1960 and within a decade established itself as the equal of the NFL.

In 1967 Hunt’s Kansas City Chiefs played the Green Bay Packers in the NFL-AFL Championship Game.  The Packers won that game in a rout, but it would become the first edition of the biggest single event in all of American sports, the Super Bowl.  Two years later Joe Namath led the former AFL New York Titans, the New York Jets, to a stunning Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Colts and, when the Miami Dolphins went undefeated in 1972 the AFC was celebrated in song and verse as the better of the National Football League’s two conferences.  In less than a decade and a half Bud Adams’ AFL had gone from fledgling football experiment to an equal partner with the NFL.

Adams entry in all of this was the Houston Oilers, who would win the first two AFL championships, and his loyalty to Houston never waned.  Even when he moved the team to Nashville, where they became the Tennessee Titans, Houston remained his residence and the headquarters for his business.  He was right in his assessment that the Astrodome was no longer a suitable home for an NFL team and, being a businessman first, he did what was right for his team and accepted a sweetheart deal in Tennessee.

Bud Adams was a visionary and a philanthropist, one of only four NFL owners with 350 career wins, his team generated more than $18 million for local charities in Tennessee.  At times he could be controversial but his idea to circumvent the roadblocks to NFL ownership is the foundation on which the greatest sports enterprise in the world was built.  He was the last living founding member of that foundation, recognized for his visionary achievements with the first Lamar Hunt Award in 2008.  But the greatest honor of all to Bud Adams would have been election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bud Adams died yesterday at age 90, without seeing that dream come true.  Now wouldn’t be the perfect time to rectify that situation.  Perfect would have been Bud Adams on the steps of the Hall of Fame accepting the honor.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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