Happy ending this time? Levy revisits Super Bowl in new novel

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Marv Levy is going back to the Super Bowl, this time as a novelist. And that leaves the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach relying on the reader to determine whether he comes out a winner.

"I think we'll have to find out how well it's accepted," Levy said by phone from his home in Chicago. "That's one of the great things about coaching and maybe it is about writing. You don't know the outcome when you enter it. And that makes it even more intriguing."

At 86, Levy is literally opening a new chapter of his career later this month with the release of his first novel, "Between The Lies," published by Ascend Books. It's a fictional story involving Levy's first passion, football, and the Super Bowl, something he's also very familiar with, having led the Buffalo Bills to four Super Bowl appearances -- all losses -- in the early 1990s.

It's a book that's been 35 years in the making. Levy spent his down time between practices and games, personnel moves, game-planning and news conferences, by jotting down notes -- plot lines, character studies, anecdotes -- and stashing them away for future reference.

"I was always fascinated by writing. I wanted to write," said Levy, who was both an English and history major in college. "I knew all during my coaching career that I wanted to write some fiction. ... And now, when I finally retired, I said, 'OK, the time has come.'"

The story follows two NFL expansion teams, the Los Angeles Leopards and the Portland Pioneers, and how they wind up meeting in the Super Bowl with the game's integrity on the line. The book promises intrigue revolving around a cheating scandal. Beyond that, there's a love story, plenty of insights into what can go on behind the scenes, and entertaining observations.

Though he provides perspective from real-life experiences, Levy insists: "This book is fiction."

"I've been asked many times, 'Do you think there's really cheating going on?'" he said. "I have never seen evidence."

And yet, he adds, he's known of some coaches who have been paranoid over whether their locker rooms have been bugged.

"I make light of it," Levy said. "I'm not making any accusations at all in the book. I'm trying to entertain the reader."

This is Levy's second book after penning his autobiography in 2004.

From the three chapters of "Between The Lies" provided The Associated Press, there are entertaining moments that capture events with Levy's informed insight.

Owners question coaches. Egos are prevalent. Coaches speak in "Win, win, win" coachspeak. And the reporters can be overly creative, as happens over a quarterback controversy involving Toby Eggleston.

Writes one wag: "Toby or not Toby? That is the question."

Levy is not unfamiliar to journalism. He dealt with countless reporters during his 34-year coaching career. He also wrote Super Bowl previews for The AP in the 1990s. So it was easy for him to capture the flavor of the business and even have one character, reporter Mel Herbert, serve as his protagonist. It's Herbert who uncovers the cheating scandal and is unsure of how to proceed.

"He's painted in a very favorable light, but he's not flawless by any means. And so are most people in it," Levy said. "I've said coaches, about 90 percent of them, are good, good guys and there are about 10 percent who are jerks."

The same, Levy said with a laugh, applies to the media.

The names of some characters are curious, and more than vaguely familiar to real-life people, many of them relating to the Bills.

There are quarterbacks Kelly James (BillsHall of Famer Jim Kelly) and Hank Wright (Kelly's backup Frank Reich). There's a general manager named Brant Gilbert (former Cowboys player personnel director Gil Brandt).

And then there are amusing character names Levy simply pulled out of thin air, such as quarterback Q.T. Pye, reporter Dorothy "Dot" Kahm and running back Gillespie "Dizzy" Davis.

It's Davis who, during a Super Bowl press conference, is asked whether he visited the Parthenon and Acropolis while vacationing in Greece.

Davis responds: "No. I didn't go to no nightclubs when I was there."

The longtime coach is not yet done with his career as a novelist.

"I'm thinking about another one, a novel, which is not related to football at all," Levy said. "It's a mystery and it involves double jeopardy. I don't want to go beyond that or I'd tip off the whole thing."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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