Van Miller: A legend lost


When a Bills fan looks back on the heyday of their beloved team from Orchard Park, certain names come to mind. Kelly, Reed, Smith, Thomas and more all come to mind. But one man stood through it all, before the glory days came and after they had vanished: Van Miller.

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Miller passed away at age 87 late Friday night.

“On behalf of Terry and Kim Pegula, and everyone at One Bills Drive, we are deeply saddened with the news of the passing of Van Miller,” Bills CEO Russ Brandon released in a statement.

The easy-going and easily-approachable Miller was the voice of the Buffalo Bills for over 40 years, calling Buffalo back in their AFL days from 1960-1970, and then took eight years off to call the NBA’s Buffalo Braves and was also a weather reporter and a game show host. But Bills football was always in his heart.

“Football is the greatest game in the world, the greatest ever, and it was my privilege to be a part of it,” Miller said during his Wall of Fame induction ceremony.

He would continue to broadcast for the Bills until 2003, when he passed the torch to now-Voice of the Bills John Murphy, but to many Bills fans and players, Van Miller’s voice will always be THE voice.

“It’s hard to put into words how one man made an ordinary game into something that electrified an entire community,” Hall of Famer Jim Kelly said about Miller, according to his obituary. “He was, and always will be, the voice of the Buffalo Bills. He will forever be in our heart.”

The creator of signature calls such as “Fasten Your Seatbelts,” “Do You Believe It?” and “It’s Fan-demonium” was known for his high-energy and passionate broadcasts, while making you laugh with his sense of humor.

“His Hall of Fame and Wall of Fame talent was overshadowed by only by his engaging personality, his witty sense of humor and his love for the Buffalo Bills,” Brandon continued in the statement.

His most famous call, however, came in arguably the most famous NFL postseason game ever. Known as “The Comeback Game” , the Bills came back from a 35-3 deficit to defeat the Houston Oilers in an AFC Wildcard game 41-38 in overtime. “The Bills have won it! The Bills have won it!” he exclaimed as the fans roared and players stormed the field.

Listening to it now, it is almost as if you were there. That is how it felt listening to his broadcasts.

Another famous call came on opening day in 1980. The Bills had lost every game against the Miami Dolphins in the 1970s, but the turn of the decade meant a turn of fortunes, and Van Miller’s call still looms large in any Bills fan’s mind that “the streak is over.”

Miller, the longest tenured broadcaster by one team in NFL history, was also known as an avid golfer, skier and enjoyed riding his bike around his home of Tonawanda.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Gloria, his daughter Cathy, his son Van and his three grandchildren, according to the obit.

So as the Bills get ready to start their 2015 edition of Training Camp, be sure to “Fasten Your Seat Belt” and get ready for the ride. We all know Van will.

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