Today in Sports History: January 12th


(Namath hands the ball off during Super Bowl III. Photo courtesy of AP Photos)

1/12/1969 - Colts win Super Bowl III

The New York Jets shock the sports world by defeating the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl. It is generally considered the greatest upset in NFL history, and to some, team sports history.

To read more about this story, click here for an in-depth Inhistoric article:

1/12/1975 - Steelers beat Vikings for first title

After 42 years of waiting, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 16-6, in Super Bowl IX -- giving them their first of numerous Super Bowl championships.

The game was a battle between Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense and Minnesota's equally-lauded "Purple People Eaters" defense, and both teams struggled to produce anything offensively. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw for only 102 yards while Vikings QB Fran Tarkenton completed only 11 of 26 passes and threw three interceptions. Vikings running back Chuck Foreman, who ran for just 18 yards on 12 carries, led the game with 50 receiving yards. Meanwhile Steelers back Franco Harris ran for 158 yards, outproducing the entire Vikings team, and was named the game's MVP.

"It wasn't a very good game," said Vikings coach Bud Grant. "Both teams had enough chances to score and to win, but the penalties, the interceptions and the official bumbles. ... it was just a game of errors by all three teams."

The Steelers would win the Super Bowl the following year and four of the six from 1975 to 1980. The Vikings, on the other hand, had lost their second consecutive championship game and would lose another one two years later, making them the victims of four of the first 11 Super Bowls.

1/12/2000 - Phills dies in car crash

On the morning of January 12, 2000, Bobby Phills and David Wesley, both teammates on the Charlotte Hornets, were speeding recklessly down a highway. According to the local police, Wesley was speeding at a torrent 110 MPH, while Phills was driving his Porsche at 107 MPH when an accident occurred. Phills lost control of the vehicle and the Porsche suddenly spun into oncoming traffic, where it collided with an Oldsmobile. The other driver in the accident was fine, but Phills was killed in the crash. He was 30 and left behind a wife and two kids.

The police report reasoned that Wesley and Phills were "involved in a speed competition," and that the two of them were driving "erratic, reckless, careless, in a negligent or aggressive manner." For Wesley, who was Phills' best friend on the Hornets, it was the loss was especially challenging.

''At first you go through that part where you feel guilty smiling,'' Wesley told reporters a year later. ''You feel guilty having fun. And then, in between, thinking about the bad, you think about the good. Gradually, I'll get to where it's mostly good. The main thing that comes to mind is when I'm in a car and I go around a corner, I can't help but think about it.''

Phills was known for his hard work and determination; he was an undrafted player who had signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a ten-day contract in 1992, then managed to stretch it out into a long career. His main claim to fame came on defense, where he was considered one of the premier defenders in the game. Besides earning First Team All-NBA Defense, Michael Jordan gave him the ultimate compliment in 1996 when he called Phills the toughest defender in the NBA.

Phills was just the fourth active NBA player to be killed during the season, joining Terry Furlow (1980), Nick Vanos (1987), and Drazen Petrovic (1993). Sadly, that list would expand just four months later when Malik Sealy of the Minnesota Timberwolves also died in an automobile accident.

The Hornets retired Phills' No. 13 jersey that February.

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