In true fashion, Western New York sports fans wasted little time over the weekend paying tribute to Van Miller after news broke of his passing. Miller was a broadcasting legend who had an incredible gift for making his listeners feel as if he were sitting with them on the couch.
Miller had his pulse on the community, especially during the Bills’ glory days, and will be remembered for talent, longevity and professionalism. Most people should know that he was a better person than he was a play-by-play man. He was a terrific storyteller and funny man who owned every room he entered.
He had a great knack for making people feel comfortable and never came off larger than life even though he was to many around him. He often introduced younger media covering the Bills as his nephew or niece. In return, many called him “Uncle Van” when he roamed around the press box years after calling his last game.
In many ways, he was Buffalo’s uncle and communal jewel.
Many fans’ earliest sports memories forever will be accompanied by his voice. For me, it goes back to when he was calling Buffalo Braves’ games, in between his two long stints as the Voice of the Bills. He made kids who listened on their transistor radios feel like they were in the driveway with Randy Smith and Bob McAdoo.
His greatest calls were related to the Bills winning four straight AFC championships, and losing Super Bowls. He understood the euphoria, and the heartbreak, that swept through town during the 1990s. His audience felt like they were fastening their seatbelts for a ride with Jim Kelly & Co., and the No Huddle offense.
Van referred to future Hall of Famers such as Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith and Andre Reed using their first names because the community was on a first-name basis with them. The same could be said about him.
People were eulogizing him in death, but they paid tribute to him in life every time they turned down their television and turned up the radio. At his best, he was Van-tastic.
• Tiger Woods missed the cut in a major championship for the third time in four events when he limped home at 7-over par after 36 holes Saturday on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
The last time he played that poorly in the British Open, he was a teenage amateur who made the cut. Speaking of seven, Woods beat seven players combined in the U.S. Open and the British Open.
Forget majors. Forget winning. The next step for him is returning to relevance.
• It will take some work, but Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw could reach the 300-strikeout mark this season. The 300-strikeout mark would be no small feat. It hasn’t been reached since 2002, when Randy Johnson struck out 334 and teammate Curt Schilling fanned 316 for the Diamondbacks.
Sale earlier this season had eight consecutive games in which he struck out 10 batters or more. In his last two starts, Kershaw had 27 strikeouts. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Kershaw was the first pitcher in 100 years with more than 10 strikeouts, no runs and no walks allowed in consecutive games.
Allow me to remind you of several ridiculous pitching records that never will be approached. In 1886, Matt Kilroy fanned 513 batters. Five-hundred thirteen. Two years earlier, four pitchers had 417 or more strikeouts. Among them was Old Hoss Radbourn, who had a record 59 wins that season.
In 1879, Will White threw 75 complete games and logged 680 innings, both records. He failed to complete only one game and had a 43-31 record and a 2.14 ERA in the American Association, which stood as the major leagues at the time. Side note: He started his career in Buffalo and was buried at Forest Lawn in 1911.
Most know Cy Young had a record 511 wins, but many forget that he also had a record 316 losses. Both marks will stand forever. In fact, only 16 pitchers in history have more wins than Young has losses. With so much situational pitching these days, there may never be another 300-game winner.
• Dez Bryant’s five-year deal worth $70 million with the Cowboys, including $45 million guaranteed, may have been absurd to some but actually fell in line with the money being thrown these days.
Calvin Johnson signed a seven-year deal worth $113 million in 2012. Johnson has six 1,000-yard seasons on his resume. He averaged 100 catches and 1,712 yards in the first three years after signing the contract before injuries limited him to 71 catches for 1,077 yards last season. He’s the standard.
Bryant had at least 88 catches, 1,200 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. His 41 TDs over that period led the NFL.
In the last four seasons, he has 336 catches for 4,863 yards and 50 TDs. Jordy Nelson had 300 catches for 4,863 yards and 43 TDs during that span. Nelson signed a four-year deal worth $39 million last summer with the Packers.
The Cowboys signed Bryant to the extension shortly before the 3 p.m. deadline Wednesday to sign a long-term deal. He would have made $12.8 million on a one-year hitch after Dallas slapped him with the franchise tag. Bryant stood to lose about $800,000 per week if he held out into the regular season.
More disturbing was hearing he may not have been able to afford to lose any money. Yes, he was playing below market value on his rookie contract. Still, he made some $11.8 million over his first five seasons. Speculation was rampant in Dallas that he was broke, thanks largely to the hangers-on who surrounded him.