New book reads like ‘Friday Night Lights’ meets ‘The Bad News Bears’
Some memories are sweet — like sugar-drenched strawberries soaking into home-made pound cake, slathered with fresh whipped cream. Hmmmmm … Other memories? Lemon-and-lime bitter. Acidic. Mind-puckeringly astringent. Sourishly sourerful.
Which brings me to my point: I flipped on TanTalk1340.com — as I do religiously each Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. — and listened to “Joy on Paper with Patzi,” a charming and lively radio show “for writers and those who dream of writing — and for everyone who wants to know the story behind the book.”
Let me say upfront that I’ve had the good fortune to be a guest on the show, and I’ll tell you this: Patzi Gil treats writers like family, whether they be royalty like Mary Higgins Clark and Brad Meltzer or newbies like me.
The book’s sub-title pretty much says it all: “Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History” (Simon & Schuster ISBN-13–9781476772264)
Yup — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sometimes unlovingly called “The Yuccaneers.”
And why not?
Imagine a group of hapless grown men traipsing around in football uniforms, baptized in the color of Dreamsicles. Painful enough? Nope. How about helmets sporting a tacky, flamboyant, cheeky, swashbuckler along the lines of Errol Flynn — but with an orangey tan that would make both former House Speaker John Boehner and KFC crispy-chicken hawker George Hamilton proud.
Here’s a brief summary of “The Yucks!” as provided by its author:
“During the 1976 and 1977 seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cemented their place in football history, not with a Super Bowl win, but with the longest losing streak in the history of the NFL. The Buccaneers — affectionately and mockingly called the ‘The Yucks’ by fans — lost their first twenty-six games. No other team in professional football has ever come close to this streak.”
I’m a Bucs fan — and, yes, that losing streak hurt.
Season Opener, Away: Sunday, Sept. 12, 1976, at the Astrodome. Boom. Bash. Ka-pow! Final score: Oilers 20, Bucs Zero.
Season Opener at Home: Sunday, Sept. 19, 1976, Tampa Stadium: Ka-Boom. Ka-Bash. Pow-Wow! Final score: Chargers 20, Bucs Zero.
When the season ended, the Yuks were 0–14. Worse yet, they’d been outscored an astounding 412–125.
It was nothing to laugh about — and, yet, it was.
Here’s the way Vuic put it: “Their on-field failures were so hilarious that Tonight Show host Johnny Carson used to joke about them in his opening monologues.”
To make matters worse: The Bucs continued the no-win streak in season two, going 0–12 before finally getting the team’s first-ever “Away” win, 33–14 over New Orleans on Dec. 11, 1977. The team won then its first “Home” game the following week, a 17–7 victory over the Cardinals.
Again, no laughing matter — but, of course it was. Even the Buccaneer coach — legendary John McKay of USC fame — joined in:
“The (orange) uniforms were already picked out by the time I got here. I didn’t give it too much thought until I saw our buses and I said, ‘My God, we’re dressed just like that bus.’ ”
“We didn’t tackle well … but we made up for it by not blocking”
“You do a lot of praying, but most of the time the answer is ‘no.’ ”
I can vouch for the praying part. I remember watching Buc games with my Bible open to Psalm 13, which begins: “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?”
Back to Vuic’s book. I plan to read it for the laughs, the pain, the sweet-and-sour memories — plus, based on his lively interview with Patzi, I’m convinced would-be readers need not be football fans to enjoy “The Yucks!” It sounds laugh-at-loud funny to me, and that’s what I plan to do: Read. Laugh. Then laugh some more.
PS: Patzi will post her interview with Jason Vuic on her Archive at www.Radio-JoyOnPaper.com/archive. Authors are listed in alphabetical order. Scroll down to the letter “V” to hear Jason Vuic. (You can find her interview with me listed under “L” for L-a-m-b.)