The greatest player in the history of the Houston Oilers is, without a doubt, Earl Campbell. And Ross Greenburg, the former head of HBO Sports, is producing a documentary on the life and career of Campbell that will air later this year on the NBC Sports Network. And last month the MLB Network did a marvelous documentary on Darryl Kile and the tragedy of his death. So that has got me to thinking about what other Houston sports figures or events deserve to be the subject of am HBO/ESPN/NBC Sports/MLB Network/NFL Network-type documentary. Here are my suggestions, and if I leave out any, then leave a comment.
5. The 1983 Houston Cougar Men's Basketball Team: If you're going to do a documentary on any great college basketball team that never won an NCAA title, then it should be the 1983 Cougars squad. The Cougars lost the NCAA title on a last-second shot by a team that barely made the tourney -- and thanks to CBS, that shot, along with a footage of a crazed NC State coach Jim Valvano running around the court, is replayed constantly during March Madness games. The semi-final game, between the Coogs and Louisville, is acknowledged as one of the greatest games ever played in college basketball. That Cougar squad also featured two of the NBA's greatest players, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, and was coached by Guy V. Lewis, one of the greatest ever and least appreciated figures in college basketball history.
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4. J.R. Richard: Richard was on a pace to go down as possibly one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He was the dominating NL right-hander of the late '70s. He had an overpowering fastball and struck out 300-plus batters twice in his career. Then he started suffering from a problem with his pitching arm in 1980. The team doubted his injury, and he eventually suffered a stroke during an off-day throwing session. He attempted to return to the majors, but never made it. He made some bad investments, went through a divorce, was homeless and lived under a bridge for awhile, but now he's coaching baseball camps and his life is back on the upswing.
3. Guy V. Lewis: Maybe if Coach Lewis were to be the subject of an HBO or ESPN or NBC Sports Network documentary, then Coach Lewis might finally get the national recognition that one of the great basketball coaches of all time so richly deserves. He coached Elvin Hayes, Drexler, Olajuwon, Don Chaney, Michael Young, Otis Birdsong and many other NCAA and NBA greats. He was one of the leading figures in integrating major college sports in the South in the 1960s. It was his idea to play a college basketball game inside a domed stadium, and on national television.
It's my opinion that Coach Lewis has become the forgotten man of college basketball. I can't really explain the reasoning for this, but year after year he fails to make the Basketball Hall of Fame while lesser lights like Dick Vitale and John Chaney are inducted. So while it's nice to see a documentary on Campbell or Kile, maybe it's time that the rest of the country was made aware of the greatness of coach Lewis. 2. The Comeback: On January 3, 1993, the Houston Oilers traveled to Buffalo to take on the Bills in a Wild Card playoff game. The Oilers stormed off to a 28-3 halftime lead, then quickly went up 35-3 in the third quarter. The Bills scored the next 35 points of the game before the Oilers kicked a field goal to send the game to overtime. The Oilers couldn't score on their first OT possession, and the Bills kicked a field goal to win 41-38. The NFL Network often replays this game, but let's give it the ESPN Films treatment, complete with the interviews of those involved, and let's find out just what everyone was thinking as the Bills pulled off the comeback.
1. Roy Hofheinz: Also known as the Judge, Roy Hofheinz was the mastermind behind the Astrodome, Astroworld and the first owner of the Houston Astros. He was a former mayor of Houston, a former state legislator, Harris County judge and the former owner of multiple radio stations. And his son Fred Hofheinz was also one of Houston's mayors. Most current Houstonians are probably clueless when it comes to knowledge of Hofheinz, but he and his family played key roles in the growth of Houston, Harris County and the University of Houston. And who knows what the history of pro sports in Houston would have been like were it not for the Judge.