Second to None: The Relentless Drive and Impossible Dream of the Super Bowl Bills will be available on Monday, September 1st, but I was lucky enough to get a review copy ahead of time.
The story is authored by Joseph Valerio, the producer of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, and chronicles Jim Kelly’s arrival in Buffalo, all the way to February when Andre Reed was notified that he’d be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The book begins with a foreword from Steve Tasker, the best special teams player in Buffalo’s history, and an introduction by Hall of Fame head coach Marv Levy. Valerio does a great job of interviewing multiple Bills players and personnel from Buffalo’s Super Bowl era.
Besides football, Second to None takes a look at the camaraderie the Bills had during this time period. Whether it was gathering at Jim Kelly’s house after games, golfing before and after training camp practices (Camp Marv), participating in charity basketball games, going to the movies or snowmobiling, these Bills went out of their way to spend time together. This led to a close-knit group on and off the field.
Valerio focuses mostly on late season games, playoff games and the team’s four Super Bowl appearances. The author did such a good job of capturing Super Bowl XXV that I had to put the book down a few times as I could feel the pain of that loss all over again, many years later. Bill Parcells spoke with Valerio about the game and the Bills team from that time period. He showed great respect to the Buffalo Bills franchise and noted how they had a “great run.”
On the flip side, Jimmy Johnson also talked to Valerio about the Super Bowl Bills. He came across just as arrogant and brash as he was during his head coaching career. At one point, Johnson states, “I think it was a good run, but again if you don’t win the Super Bowl, it’s not a great run. It’s all about the rings.” There’s also his quote on facing the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, “I didn’t have a lot of concerns. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into any game where I felt as confident that we were gonna win.” Johnson doesn’t come off as sounding confident in the story; he sounds cocky.
As for Bills interviewed in the story, you’ll hear from many core members of the group. Darryl Talley probably provides the best quotes as he always tells it as it is. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed about the linebacker and the book accurately portraits him as the heart and soul of Buffalo’s team. Besides Talley, Bill Polian’s quotes and contributions to the book really stuck with me. Polian, who gets choked up when talking about the team, still cares a great deal about those Bills teams as well as the franchise itself.
While the Bills didn’t win the big game, Valerio talks with Don Beebe (Packers) and Polian (Colts) about their respective Super Bowl wins. Beebe believed that the Bills’ confidence was shaken after their first Super Bowl defeat and that the other games would have gone much differently had they won the first one. Both men made it known that as they held the Lombardi Trophy, they couldn’t stop thinking about the Bills.
Mike Lupica, a New York Daily News columnist, summed it up best in his review when he said that these Bills “showed us all that winning the big game isn’t everything in sports, no matter how many times we’re told it is.”
Buffalo’s resiliency is captured brilliantly by Valerio. While I wish the book have gone more in depth through all four Super Bowl seasons, this is still a must-read book for any Bills fans. For many of us, these are some of the best sports memories of our lives, and for those of you who are too young to remember Buffalo’s tremendous run, Second to None will give you a glimpse of just how magnificent the Super Bowl Bills were. I highly recommend this book for any Bills fan.