FOOTBALL FAR FROM HOME — Jeff Miller, shown at left with his son Benjamin and Jimmy’s Old Time Tavern owner Jimmy Cirrito, conducted a book signing at the Herndon, Va. bar on Sept. 30. Photo submitted by Jeff Miller.
SPRINGVILLE — Jeff Miller of Springville decided to be a writer when he was 10 years old. Forty years later, his fourth book is coming out and publishers now approach him to write books, rather than the other way around.
Miller is the author of several books on football, “Buffalo’s Forgotten Champions: The Story of Buffalo’s First Professional Football Team and the Lost 1921 Title,” “Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in Buffalo Bills Football History,” “Rockin’ the Rockpile: The Buffalo Bills of the American Football League” and one book about his hometown, “The Icemen Cometh: The History of the Natural Ice Industry at Lime Lake, New York, 1880 – 1925.”
ULTIMATE BILLS PUBLICATION — Jeff Miller’s “100 Things Bills Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” is now available for purchase.
His latest book, “100 Things Bills Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” is now available from Triumph Books.
Miller, who works as the coordinator of support and employment at the Cantalician Center, a Catholic center in Buffalo that helps find and provide jobs and opportunities for people with disabilities, said he is a “historian and writer first” who stumbled into writing about football, by accident.
“I was going to write a book about the Civil War and I was at the Buffalo [and Erie County Public] Library, waiting my turn for the microfiche machine, when I saw a photo of this football team from the 1920s,” he said.
“At the same time, I saw in the news that this guy who had been a part of it had turned 99 years old and I thought, ‘It can’t be a coincidence that I’m seeing all this stuff,’ so I contacted him about doing an essay about it.”
As Miller continued to research, he said it turned into a book. A lifelong football fan, Miller said that “one thing led to another” as he became more and more involved in the niche market of football writing.
“The market is very small. I’m not going to get to retire on what I make writing these books,” Miller said, with a smile. He belongs to the Professional Football Researchers Association and said that, when the historians get together, as they did at a gathering last summer, the same sort of “good-natured ribbing” goes on between them as does between football fans, as a whole.
“We tease each other about which teams we [are experts on],” Miller said. “Just like other fans.”
Marv Levy, the man who led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances and six American Football League East titles in his 12 seasons as head coach, wrote the foreword to Miller’s latest book. Miller also worked with Levy on “Game Changers,” a partnership the author also said “happened by accident.
“I had seen other books about the 50 greatest plays [of other teams] and noticed there wasn’t one for the Bills, so I pitched the idea to Triumph. They asked if I would mind writing it with Marv Levy and I was like, ‘Oh, no. I guess I wouldn’t mind,’” Miller relayed, with a laugh.
He noted that the amount of time it takes him to write a book depends on several factors, including the availability of the information he needs and the deadline set by the publisher. The author, who spent five years writing “Buffalo’s Forgotten Champions,” said he had to finish “100 Things” in 6 months, in order to release it in time for the current season.
“It depends on how accessible the information is,” Miller said, of the wide range of time the process can take. “For [‘Buffalo’s Forgotten Champions,’] there was no one to ask questions; I couldn’t go online and find the information. I had to do a lot of traveling out of town. For the other books, there are a lot of guys who are still alive who I can talk to, who live nearby. It makes it easier.”
As the father of a 10-year-old son, Benjamin, Miller said he tries to strike a balance between writing and spending time with his family. “I spent a lot of time in my office with the door closed,” he said, of trying to get “100 Things” finished in time.
“But it’s hard because you don’t want to miss anything. I do a lot of writing after 11 p.m.” Time has been an issue throughout his writing career, Miller explained. When his son was born with a heart defect, Miller said he had to juggle writing with “being there for my family.
“I didn’t want my wife to always be the one getting up with him. It was a difficult time. I prefer to write when it’s quiet, but it depends on creativity. You have to tell a story; give it life. If you’re burned out, you don’t have that flow.”
Despite the pressures of balancing writing with his family and his job, Miller said that, for him, it was all about sticking to a commitment he made when he was a kid.
“I didn’t want to be that guy on his deathbed saying, ‘I wish I wrote that novel.’ I said when I was 10 that I was going to do it, and you have to follow that commitment.”
For his latest book, Miller said it was a matter of picking a selection of interesting, noteworthy and quirky facts and events from throughout Buffalo Bills history that warranted inclusion.
Although he said hard core fans will appreciate the statistics and facts the book includes, it also has information that might be useful for new fans to brush up on their Bills trivia.
“I included the quirky things I thought [Buffalo] Bills fans should know, interesting stories, characters who were not only greats, but were people I thought Bills fans should know. It’s a good basis for knowledge.”
One of those things Miller included in his book is Jimmy’s Old Time Tavern in Herndon, Va. Run by Jimmy Cirrito who was born and raised in Arcade, the tavern hosts Buffalo Bills tailgates and serves Buffalo staples, like wings and beef on weck.
After Miller called Cirrito to ask if he could include the tavern in his book, the restaurateur invited Miller and his family down to the pub for a book-signing and to watch the Bills play the Patriots.
That event kicked off Miller’s book-signing schedule, which will continue around Western New York on Oct. 20 at The Bookworm, a bookstore located at 34 Elm St. in East Aurora, at 11 a.m., followed by an appearance at Barnes & Noble in Amherst on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m.