Friday Night Lights meets The Bad News Bears in “a brisk, warmhearted reminder of how professional sports can occasionally reach stunning unprofessional depths” (Publishers Weekly): the first two seasons with the worst team in NFL history, the hapless, hilarious, and hopelessly winless 1976–1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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.
This was no ordinary streak. 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, 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. “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 “a funny, endearing look at how the Bucs lost their way to success, cementing a region through creamsicle unis and John McKay one-liners” (Sports Illustrated).
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.