The Buffalo Bills family lost a significant piece of our history this weekend. Van Miller, the team's longtime play-by-play announcer, passed away at the age of 87, it was reported Saturday.
Legend. Heart and soul. Artist. Irreplaceable. Icon.
Those are just some of the words used by those who either personally knew the man, or were blessed to experience a portion of the handiwork he provided every Sunday afternoon for 37 consecutive seasons.
When it comes to describing just how special Van Miller was, and what he meant to the team and its fans, I can't do better than what Michael Necci did back in October for Buffalo Wins, so I'm just going to link to his piece on Van. Please consider taking a few minutes to read it; in it, he includes thoughts from Darryl Talley and some personal anecdotes. It's worth your time, I promise.
I don't know about your family, but the Reids were a "turn the TV down, turn the radio up" household. Like a childhood storybook narrator, Van's was the voice that carried me through my childhood fairy tales. A team in the late 80's and early 90's whose fans EXPECTED it to win every week, it was Van Miller who walked us through all four quarters (and the occasional seatbelt-fastened overtime) to the more-often-than-not happy resolution. Those were my formative years as a young Bills fan, and his voice is forever imprinted on my red, white, and blue heart.
So, about this shirt.
We've had this design in the queue for some time. When the news came down about Van's passing, it seemed logical to move it up; however, I wasn't sure if by doing so, it would be considered in poor taste. I took to Twitter and asked people's opinion. The overwhelming majority of replies (literally about 99%) was "do it." I privately asked several people I know who have close connections to the team and every reply I received was "do it."
So we're going to do it.
We'll be releasing "Fandemonium" ahead of schedule out of respect for, and in honor of, the legendary Van Miller.
It's my prayer that everyone understands the reasoning, and doesn't look at this as some kind of opportunistic money grab... Because if you're remotely aware of 26shirts, you know we're not in this to make a buck. We're in it to help people.
The beneficiary of this design is the WNY chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Nearly every cystic fibrosis drug available today was made possible because of Cystic Fibrosis Foundation support. Through its efforts, the life expectancy of a child with CF has doubled in the last 30 years, and research to find a cure is more promising than ever before.
What is CF? It's a genetic disease that affects about 70,000 people worldwide. This defective gene causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucus that makes it difficult for the affected person to breathe and also break down food internally. This means he or she is prone to frequent lung infections and also cannot absorb the vital nutrients contained in the food they eat. It's awful.
When I first met with Kristin Schneider, the Development Manager of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of WNY, many months ago, she explained to me that those affected (mostly children) often cannot be in support groups with others of the same condition because of the infection risk involved. How terrible! Not being able to find community with those who best understand your struggle (because it's theirs as well) is a cruel reality of this disease. This has stuck with me ever since she told me about it.
As I often say through the Twitter and Facebook posts of 26shirts, WE WANT TO HELP. And it's because of Van Miller's amazing talent that we're going to be able to do so this time. Check out "Fandemonium," the newest shirt from 26 Shirts.