Monday, September 5, 2016

Jason Vuic's "The Yucks!"

Jason Vuic is the author of The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History and The Sarajevo Olympics: A History of the 1984 Winter Games. A graduate of Wake Forest University, he holds an M.A. in history from the University of Richmond and a Ph.D. in history from Indiana University Bloomington. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Vuic applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Yucks: Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History, and reported the following:
I wrote a book on the 1976-1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the National Football League expansion team with the longest losing streak in the history of the NFL. Widely known as the worst team ever, the Buccaneers lost their first twenty-six games by a combined score of 664 to 199. They were shut out eleven times. They used seven quarterbacks. At the end of season one, they had more players on injured reserve than touchdowns, and once were twenty-four point underdogs at Pittsburgh—for years the largest point spread in league history. (They lost, 42-0).

At their first game in Houston, the team got lost on its way to the locker room and spent several minutes wandering the halls of the Astrodome. The players made it out, eventually, but had just eight first downs in a 20-0 loss that one newspaper called “absolutely pointless.” Fans called them the “Yucks” and the “Sucks,” while a popular t-shirt in Tampa read “Go for 0!” The beat went on for nearly two years, twenty-six straight games, until the unthinkable happened. In the penultimate game of season two, the Bucs finally won. They routed the Saints 33-14 in a game that Bucs coach John McKay called “the greatest victory in the history of the world.”

Arrogant, sarcastic, imperious, acerbic, McKay had come to the Bucs from Southern Cal, where he’d won four national championships in twelve years. He was a legendary coach, to critics strictly a college coach, who brought two bizarre hang ups to the pros: he hated veterans and he hated kickers. The Bucs’ Dave Green was both.

So that brings us to page 99. Season one, game three. The Bucs are at home playing the Bills, a relatively bad team, but through eight and half quarters of football, have yet to score. In fact, the team has never scored, so its only hope is Green, a veteran punter forced into duty as a kicker because, well, these were the Yucks…
The big story, however, was the Buccaneer offense—it scored, finally, on a first-quarter field goal by Dave Green. Apparently, McKay had told the team in the locker room that whenever they did score, he’d stop the game and give the player who did it the game ball. But when Green kicked his field goal, the mercurial Bucs coach failed to mention it. “So I said, ‘Coach, hey…what about the game ball?’” recalls the kicker. “But then McKay says, ‘Shit, Green. I didn’t think it’d be you!’”
Visit Jason Vuic's website.

--Marshal Zeringue