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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 — 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.

Today (Tuesday, Sept. 20) Patzi’s show featured Jason Vuic and his new book “The Yucks!” The interview triggered a tsunami of memories — and not of the sugared-strawberries variety.

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 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.)

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