Monday, 26 September 2016

The Yucks

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Jason Vuic is a lifelong Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, and he brings his critical journalistic eye to the creation and formation of the NFL franchise known as the Bucs that were born in the Tampa Bay area of Florida in 1976 and in became the losingest team in NFL history when they lost 26 consecutive games ending in 1977.

The book is a pleasant sprightly read through the early history of a franchise that would ultimately reach the pinnacle by winning the Super Bowl in 2003. Yet it was a very long road, and continues to be so; they have endured more losing seasons than winning seasons in their 40 year history. Although following the draft of Jameis Winston last year, perhaps the cementing of a stronger team is coming to fruition.

The story began with promoter Bill Marcum who wanted to bring a NFL team to his hometown, and the owner Hugh Culverhouse, who was a miserly figure such as charging players for soda in the locker room. Yet the best stories and tidbits of the novel come from the ever quotable head coach John McKay, who would drill his players in an attempt to replicate the success he had at the University of Southern California (USC).

The images that stick with you are a college great in McKay who won National Championships being unable to replicate the success at a professional level, doing two-a-days in 100 degree heat for a whole month running his pros into the ground and instilling a negativity from the outset.

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John McKay - coach of the worst team in NFL history

This failure to build a cohesion and team spirit because they were too fatigued meant that they were always facing an uphill battle, and the losing began leading to them becoming a national punchline led by Johnny Carson on 'The Tonight Show'.

Yet the Bucs had good players in quarterback Steve Spurrier (who would go on to become a college great himself in the coaching ranks), defensive end Pat Toomay who was ultimately banished after writing a tell-all book.

However bad they were, the Yucks became something more than if they were a .500 team. They became prominent in the public consciousness and everyone knew who the Bucs were, even if they were not winning. Fans came to the games to cheer on their endeavours no matter how poor they were, McKay would offer a fight with fans who questioned his integrity yet it all culminated with a victory over New Orleans in the Superdome over the Saints led by Archie Manning (the father of Peyton and Eli), the account of their plane ride home is worth the read alone. A first victory turned into the greatest victory.

The Yucks is out now from Simon & Schuster in Hardback

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