Five Years Ago: Vanilla Ice Jinxes the Houston Texans
After a 2012 season in which they finished 12-4 and won the AFC South for the second consecutive year, the Houston Texans, led by star defensive end J.J. Watt and quarterback Matt Schaub, were picked by many to seriously contend for the Super Bowl the following year. Then, Vanilla Ice came calling.
After beating the San Diego Chargers in their first game, the team booked Vanilla Ice to play the halftime show of their Sept. 15 home opener, against their divisional rivals, the Tennessee Titans. It was part of a promotion called the "Liberty White Out," in which they encouraged fans to wear all-white.
Tennessee went into halftime up 10-7, and Ice, wearing a white Texans jersey with the number 1 and his name on the back. In keeping with the theme, he began with a verse and chorus of his reworking of Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" Then, after initiating a call-and-response with the crowd on the phrases "Fire it up" and "Show me the money," it was time for "Ice Ice Baby," complete with an a cappella "Word to your mother" shout, and he wrapped it up with a few chants of "Go ninja, go ninja, go!" from 1991's "Ninja Rap."
Houston rallied to reclaim the lead in the third quarter. But they gave it up in the last few minutes of the game when Alterraun Verner intercepted Schaub and ran it back for a touchdown. The Texans managed to force overtime when Arian Foster scored a touchdown and made a two-point conversion with a little more than a minute remaining. Houston wound up winning in overtime 30-24.
That turned out to be the highlight of their season. Schaub, who was in the first full year of a four-year, $62 million contract extension, threw six interceptions in the next four games, three of which were returned for touchdowns, setting a new league record. When he got injured against St. Louis, backup T.J. Yates threw one of his own.
By Nov. 3, they tried changing their luck by having Young MC sing "Bust a Move" at a nationally televised game against the Indianapolis Colts. They jumped out to a 21-3 lead at halftime but, following Young MC's performance, they blew it again, with the Colts scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter to win 27-24.
At the end of November, they publicly noted the effect the rapper may have had on their season. “Bring back Vanilla Ice,” running back Ben Tate said prior to a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that dropped their record to 2-9.
Ice, for his part, saw an opportunity to hire himself out to other clubs. “If we could go sing for a team," he told TMZ, " and ice them to have bad luck when I’m not there — I’d be making millions.”
With three weeks left in the season, coach Gary Kubiak was fired and replaced by interim coach Wade Phillips, who did no better, and the team finished 2-14. The next year they quickly rebuilt under new coach Bill O'Brien and rattled off three straight 9-7 seasons, winning the AFC South twice. But the lack of consistent quarterback play throughout that time caused Houston Chronicle columnist Matt Young to lay the blame at Vanilla Ice's feet.
"Just like his stupid pants, dumber haircut and completely fabricated persona tainted the music industry in the early 1990s," he wrote in January 2017 after crashing out in the playoffs, "Vanilla Ice has done the same to the Texans quarterbacks. When the curse was first talked about in 2013, there was talk of needing to bring Vanilla Ice back to perform at a game to try to somehow reverse the curse."
"The thinking behind that is mind-numbing. If you get run over by a car, do you think if you get run over again, it will fix everything? Something more therapeutic needs to happen. Perhaps a mass burning of the To The Extreme album that launched Vanilla Ice's career. Or maybe a public showing of his film Cold As Ice at Discovery Green or somewhere and we all throw rotten tomatoes at the screen when he drops his struggle line, 'Drop that zero and get with the hero.'"