No. 2. "Wait a minute. If we win, we have to go to Disneyland."
Before a game last season Levy promised his boys that if they won, he would sing a pertinent song to them. They won, and he warbled a ditty called It Ain't What You Do, It's the Way What You Do It, by that happening band Bob Crosby and the Bobcats. What arc Generation X-ers to make of this? They also hear Levy sing raunchy numbers from World War II days and turn the misadventures of Adolf Hitler into a lesson about away games. "I reminded them how Hitler almost conquered the world," says Levy. "But then he got bogged down in Russia. And you know what his problem was? He couldn't win on the road!"
Polian says it is just such enthusiasm combined with a complete absence of pretense that makes Levy the outstanding coach he is. Back in 1979, when he was with the Chiefs, Levy wrote a masterly season-ending report on the status of the entire organization, from players to coaches to facilities. He recommended to Kansas City management not only that quarterback Steve Fuller spend more time developing his throwing skills but also that the Chiefs get a "better headset and telephone setup at our games" and that they adopt a good fight song ""to fully capture fan and city spirit." Levy wrote the fight song himself and presented it to Hunt, and the Chiefs sang it for several years. "This is a guy," notes Hunt, "who pays attention to detail."
Proof that all of this works, says Polian, is that the Bills keep coming back. Year alter year. They lost their first Super Bowl by a point, the second by 13 points, the third in a rout and the fourth by a depressing 17 points after leading at the half 13-6. But they always come back to the Big Game. Drive for Five in '95! It's painful, but it is, in truth, amazing. "That resiliency is a direct reflection of what Marv Levy has taught all his players," says Polian. "They may not realize it now, but in 15 or 20 years, when we have our first Super Bowl reunion, they'll be saying, 'This was a unique man—he taught us how to be champions.' "
At the Bills' annual Kickoff Luncheon at the Buffalo Convention Center in late August, Levy leads his troops into the hall, looking like a tailor presenting the models for a big-and-tall men's catalog. The sellout crowd gazes with admiration, high spirits and, yes, a bit of concern. Can Buffalo truly be jinxed? Why can't Americans realize that second place is still a hell of a place? Will the Bills be remembered, as Smerlas fears they will, "not just for losing the Super Bowls, but for being like a circus act"?
The announcer proclaims. "Only one man in the world can say he coached his team to four consecutive conference championships: Marv Levy!"
The coach steps up to the microphone, adjusts his glasses and his notes, and speaks. "The feeling of exultation or of being down lasts about two weeks," he says. "As Rudyard Kipling said, triumph and disaster are both impostors."
He looks at his players in rows at long tables on either side of him. "Ability without character will lose," he says. He introduces his assistant coaches, apologizing at one point for missing an offensive coach because, he says, "I've got lights shining in my eyes."
Then he confronts the question one more time: "Are we going to the Super Bowl again?" He clearly is irked, the professor who has heard one too many times from the stupid frat kid in the back of the hall. "Who the hell knows who's going!" Levy says. "There are about six or seven teams in each conference that could go."
This isn't exactly what the folks want to hear. Wouldn't Jimmy Johnson promise something? Wouldn't Don Shula say something firm and inspirational?