Marv Levy chuckled when I told him there’s a movement afoot to get heretofore New Era Field named in his honor. The winningest coach in Buffalo Bills history sounded both flattered and amused.
“I’m blushing over the phone,’’ Levy joked from his Chicago home on Tuesday, a day after celebrating his 95th birthday. “I’m complimented that someone would want do that, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, nor do I necessarily think it should.”
The crusade is being led by Rich Luchette, a Buffalo native and longtime Bills fanatic now living in Washington, D.C., where he works for David Cicilline, a Congressman from Rhode Island. Luchette got the brainstorm after reading that New Era Cap Company was pulling out of its stadium naming rights deal with the Bills after just four years. He immediately thought Levy’s name should be affixed to the 70,000-seat football playpen in Orchard Park.
“There is no better person to bestow this honor upon than Hall of Fame Coach Marv Levy, the man who led the Bills to four consecutive AFC Championships,’’ Luchette wrote on the Change.org online petition he recently set up. “Throughout his career, Marv Levy’s decency, resilience, and intellectual curiosity were unparalleled. Indeed, they still are today. Renaming the stadium in his honor would be a fitting tribute to this great man and a worthy capstone on his football career.”
Through early Tuesday afternoon, more than one thousand fans had signed the petition.
I suggested in a recent column the stadium once known as Rich, Ralph Wilson and New Era Field should be named after Robert Kalsu, the promising Bills offensive lineman who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. Or after Wilson again. Or after diehard Bills fans on a rotating basis. Or after savior quarterback Jim Kelly. But I also really like the idea of Marv Levy Stadium — a place that quickly would become known as The Marv.
Wouldn’t it be great if Levy could return to One Bills Drive for the naming ceremonies (once the pandemic is under control), and bellow his signature phrase into the microphone: “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”
But that’s not going to happen because these deals are about money, not history. So the Bills will search for a deep-pocketed corporate sponsor willing to pay mucho dinero to have its name attached to the 47-year-old stadium.
Levy, by the way, is doing quite well. He said he gets in an hour’s walk every day and does light weight-lifting a few times a week. The man who wrote his memoir at age 80, his first novel at 86, his first poetry collection at 88 and his first children’s book at 92 has toyed with the idea of writing another book.
“I keep saying I’m going to do another novel,’’ he said. “But it’s probably a long shot.”
Levy celebrated his birthday with his wife, daughter and grandkids.
“I had a wild time,’’ he deadpanned. “I think I stayed out until 7:30 or 8 at night.”
The history buff and Army Air Corps veteran was scheduled to take a boat trip this fall across the English Channel to Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Unfortunately, the trip was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been to the site of the D-Day invasion once before,’’ he said. “And it’s true what they say. You can’t visit Normandy without tears in your eyes. I hope to get back there someday.”
I hope he does. I also hope he gets back to the stadium where he made a name for himself and the Bills.
You, too, can be immortalized in cardboard
If you’ve watched Major League Baseball game telecasts, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that a number of teams have put cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands. Yeah, it’s a little corny, but I like the idea. It definitely beats empty seats or advertising signs, and it’s a better alternative than those videos of fans in the bleachers from last year’s games.
And that’s why I’m on board with the Rochester Red Wings’ new promotion of placing cardboard cutouts of fans in the seats at Frontier Field as backdrops for the inter-squad scrimmages and workouts being staged by the Toronto Blue Jays practice squad at One Morrie Silver Way.
For $60, you can purchase “A Fan Cutout Package,” featuring four tickets to any Wings game in 2021, plus a 24×17-inch cutout. A photo of the cutout sitting in the stands will be sent to fans, and you’ll be able to pick up the cutout and the ticket voucher, beginning on Monday, Oct. 5. Information about how to buy the package and submit your photo is available by emailing email@example.com.
Kudos to Wings General Manager Dan Mason and his crew for continuing to come up with ways to make lemonade out of this lemon of a season. Between this promotion, as well as “Dinners on the Diamond” and the drive-in movies in the Frontier Field parking lot, the team has done its best to stay connected to fans, and mitigate the financial devastation of having its entire season canceled by COVID-19. The cutout package is just another way of supporting a more-than-century old Rochester tradition and helping to ensure that professional baseball continues to be played here in the coming seasons.
Best-selling author and nationally honored journalist Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist. His latest book, “Remembrances of Swings Past: A Lifetime of Baseball Stories,” was just published and is available in paperback and digitally at amazon.com.