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No Loss For Words
JOE POSNANSKI
August 15, 2011
Marv Levy, like so many novelists, worries about being misunderstood. Levy's specific worry is that people will think that because his football teams lost four Super Bowls, he made his first novel, Between the Lies, a mystery about whether or not someone fixed the Super Bowl. This is a fair concern because Levy's first novel is, in fact, a mystery about whether or not someone fixed the Super Bowl.
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August 15, 2011

No Loss For Words

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Marv Levy, like so many novelists, worries about being misunderstood. Levy's specific worry is that people will think that because his football teams lost four Super Bowls, he made his first novel, Between the Lies, a mystery about whether or not someone fixed the Super Bowl. This is a fair concern because Levy's first novel is, in fact, a mystery about whether or not someone fixed the Super Bowl.

"But it's about so much more," Levy says. "I hope that this book will have literary value."

He often uses that phrase: literary value. Well, Marv Levy has always been a literary man. He might be the only former NFL coach with a master's degree in English history from Harvard. He might be the only former NFL coach who recommends books about Winston Churchill "based on what part of his life you'd like to study" and explains in detail why Charles Dickens's Great Expectations ages better than his Bleak House. In the middle of dinner at Harry Caray's in Chicago, Levy breaks into a recitation of the poem Invictus and Jaques' soliloquy from Shakespeare's As You Like It:

The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank. ...

His wife, Frannie, watches and beams. Nobody in the crowded restaurant seems to notice them; they look for all the world like a retired college professor and his doting wife. That was always the impression Levy offered, anyway, a professor: white hair, crisp pronunciation, punctilious vocabulary (Who else would call a ref an "over-officious jerk"?) and a sense of perspective. When asked once if a game was a "must win," Levy remarked, "World War II was a must win."

So what could a football life of near misses mean for such a man? Levy gave up his dream of being a lawyer in 1950 to coach football at St. Louis Country Day. In 1960 he became head coach at California and hired a high school coach named Bill Walsh as an assistant. The team didn't go to the Rose Bowl. Levy was let go after four seasons.

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