The Yucks: Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL HistoryJason VuicOn sale August 30; available for preorder now.
A timeline of torment: That should be the title of Jason Vuic’s latest work, The Yucks. Vuic takes the reader through the agonizing, but unintentionally hilarious, first two season of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with all the jokes, interviews, pain and suffering you can handle.
In the late 1970s — when "Tampa Bay" meant the body of water — NFL players earned, on average, $55,000 a year and area developers were rapidly building sprawling suburbs for its dwindling, aging population. Between the backroom shady deals through lawyers and politicians, and because of suburbs popping up farther from downtown, the area grew increasingly disjointed.
Enter the NFL: According to Vuic, the Stanford Research Institute conducted a study in the area. That study reported the area “lacked a … cohesive regional identity”.
Clearly, this was before the idea of “Tampa Bay” caught on.
The odds were defied by countless boosters, promoters, journalists and real estate magnates that succeeded in fielding a team in 1976.
Vuic takes the reader through the trying times (to say the least) of the Buc’s first two seasons, where the team went 0-26; a streak that was broken with a road win in New Orleans in 1977.
Vuic describes John McKay, the Buc’s first head coach, rather accurately: as a temperamental, abusive, sarcastic and wise-cracking man with little sympathy for those who couldn't cut it in the NFL. He leaves the reader feeling there would be no other way to go through two seasons leading the worst professional sports team in history (except for maybe the 1962 Mets).
McKay guided a team that averaged fewer points at Tampa Stadium than the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who also called the venue home. McKay is shown in the book as a man who cut nearly 100 players from the team, some of them for criticizing the smell of his cigar. Cold and stubborn, Vuic portrays him in the book as someone you love to hate.
The '76 Bucs faced similar problems the team face today: Winning problems, attendance problems, an area that lacks an identity; but, at the same time, the book shows how the Bucs brought the community together, even through their losing and shameful embarrassment.
Vuic’s writes, using countless interviews, newspaper articles, quotes and stories, how the pathetically hopeless, but ever-determined Bucs turned the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area into the "Tampa Bay Area." The St. Petersburg Independent, quoted in the book, agrees:
“No other enterprise has done so much to unify the Tampa Bay area,” the article reads.
Vuic may go through a little more detail than necessary on some players you may have never heard of, but through 200 pages, you’ll laugh through the toughest years a sports team can face, you’ll marvel (or hate) McKay’s rough and witty cynicism and you find yourself rooting for a team that has, yet hasn’t, changed in 40 years.
If you’re eagerly awaiting the upcoming football season, this will keep you under control — at least for a weekend — until preseason begins. This one is for those Bucs fans who have stuck with them from bad to good ... and the to bad again. And don’t forget to bring your brown paper bags to the Yucks games this year.