Long before their first Super Bowl victory in 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did something no NFL team had ever done before and that none will ever likely do again: They lost twenty-six games in a row. Read more...
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Long before their first Super Bowl victory in 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did something no NFL team had ever done before and that none will ever likely do again: They lost twenty-six games in a row. It started in 1976, in their first season as an expansion team, and it lasted until the penultimate game of the 1977 season, when they defeated Archie Manning and the New Orleans Saints on the road. After the game, Saints coach Hank Stram was fired and said, "We are all very ashamed of what happened. Ashamed for our people, our fans, the organization, everybody." When the Bucs arrived back in Tampa, they were mobbed, and eight thousand people came to a victory party. It was the beginning of a new streak for a team that had come to be called "The Yucks." They won their final game at home, and the fans tore down the goalposts.
This was no ordinary streak. It was an existential curse that unfolded week after week, with Johnny Carson leading the charge on The Tonight Show. Along with their ridiculous mascot and uniforms, which were known as "the Creamsicles," the Yucks were a national punch line and personnel purgatory. Owned by the miserly and bulbous-nosed Hugh Culverhouse, who charged players for sodas in the locker room, the team was the end of the line for Heisman Trophy winner and University of Florida hero Steve Spurrier, and a banishment for former Cowboy defensive end Pat Toomay after he wrote a tell-all book about his time on "America's Team." Many players on the Bucs had been out of football for years, and it wasn't uncommon for them to have to introduce themselves in the huddle. They were coached by the ever-quotable college great John McKay, whose press conferences were infamous. "We can't win at home and we can't win on the road," he said. "What we need is a neutral site."
But the Bucs were a part of something bigger, too. They were a gambit by promoters, journalists, and civic boosters to create a shared identity for a region that didn't exist--Tampa Bay. Before the Yucks, "the Bay" was a body of water, and even the worst team in memory transformed Florida's Gulf communities into a single region with a common cause. The Yucks is an unforgettable and hilarious account of athletic futility and despair. But the players worked their way into the fans' hearts and were a team that, by losing, did more to generate attention than they ever could have otherwise.
- ISBN-13: 9781476772264
- ISBN-10: 1476772266
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publish Date: August 2016
- Page Count: 256
- Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.85 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-05-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Vuic, who previously chronicled the ill-fated Yugo car (Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History) here details another disaster: the 1976 and 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team that lost 26 consecutive games in its first two years of existence and became Johnny Carson’s go-to punch line. Reduced to trying out a delivery man for wide receiver, the pro football team’s terribleness was not surprising. But it mattered. An NFL franchise signified good news for a metropolitan area besieged with economic and environmental woes. When the Bucs finally won on Dec. 11, 1977—a defeat that cost New Orleans Saints coach Hank Stram his job—8,000 rowdy fans greeted the conquering heroes. There was a dark side to the nostalgic glow. Coach John McKay, who deemed the fans “idiots,” was acidic to the point of cruelty. Owner Hugh Culverhouse’s penury was so vast that he leased the team’s plane and ordered the walls in the Buccaneers’ headquarters painted white so the coaches didn’t have to use screens for film sessions. The material is a bit thin—only 40 pages are devoted to the team after its embarrassing nadir—but Vuic, who grew up a Buccaneers fan, atones by offering a brisk, warmhearted reminder of how professional sports can occasionally reach stunning unprofessional depths. Agent: Farley Chase, Chase Literary. (Aug.)