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Friday Flashbacks: David Williams, the Houston Oilers, and Uproar over Football and Childbirth

Charles Tillman has said that he would miss Sunday’s game for the birth of his daughter if it came to that. The baby is supposed to be born Monday, so it may not be an issue, but you never know. Well, most of us would support that decision. Mike Florio did not think much of a player who didn’t plan his wife’s pregnancy around the NFL schedule, though after several page views complaints, he re-considered his position.

This, though, was nothing compared to what happened nineteen years ago. A search through the archives doesn’t reveal many conflicts between a player choosing between the birth of his child and playing a football game. Perhaps this was because they didn’t miss football games, or perhaps it just wasn’t discussed. I found reference to a Houston running back reporting late for a College All Star Game in 1969 because his wife was giving birth, and a Pittsburgh Panthers kicker, just hours after his wife had given birth, missing three field goals in a 7-6 loss to Penn State.

This all changed in 1993, though. David Williams was a right tackle with the Houston Oilers. The Oilers were playing a road game at New England the week his wife was going into labor. Williams’ wife had a miscarriage the year before. When she went into labor on Saturday, he informed the team that he would not be making the team flight and got excused.

The team, though, was upset that he did not get to the game the next day in New England after his child was born that night. That prompted his offensive line coach, Bob Young, to make perhaps the worst War to Football analogy of all-time:

“This is like World War II, when guys were going to war and something would come up but they had to go,” Bob Young, the Oilers’ offensive-line coach, was quoted as saying just after the game Sunday. Later, he added: “My wife told me she was having a baby and I said, ‘Honey, I’ve got to go play a football game.’ David just went blank. He let the guys down, and he let hundreds of thousands of fans down.”

My grandfather had just gone into the army in World War II, and my aunt was born while he was gone. To suggest these were similar? Ludicrous.

Those hundreds of thousands of fans? They agreed as well. According to the Times story, the “vast majority of callers” to local sports radio stations in Houston supported Williams, and not the team who docked Williams $125,000 for missing the game. There were other “pro-family folks” who spoke out against Williams.

We probably won’t see any team take a stand like the Oilers again. Earlier this year, Ben Roethlisberger talked about missing a game if necessary, and I empirically broke down the value of being at the birth versus playing in a football game. Sure, teams could probably fight to withhold a game check, but they can’t keep dads from being dads. When you talk about your team in terms of a family, that’s probably a fight you don’t want to have.

[photo via US Presswire]

 

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