it may come as a huge surprise to folks who know me personally, but i am a huge football fan. And by football I mean the national football league–american football for anyone outside of the united states or just happens to hate the term soccer. beyond the overflowing machismo and horrific injuries, football has allowed me to remain connected with family who Ii would normally have nothing else in common with, most importantly my father.
growing up, football was everything in our household. my dad, a longtime pittsburgh steelers fan, would be glued to the television every sunday, spending marathon sessions cheering or cursing squads that had nothing to do with his own. although we lived in california, team preferences among my relatives weren’t always locked to the state; while my mom stuck with the san francisco 49ers (though she’s recently transitioned to the baltimore ravens due to her love for ray lewis’ hype-building antics) and my aunt rooted for the oakland raiders, my uncle and an older cousin were fond of the minnesota vikings. i just enjoyed watching, but as i got older it became more and more improtant that i have a team of my own.
and then i saw them.
tampa bay buccaneers. the name screamed cool to me as a kid due to my fascination with all things pirates, and i couldn’t get over their logo (a torn flag adorned with a skull and crossed sabers) and how much it stood out among the sea of lions and giants and bears. while not a huge fan of the crimson that acted as the primary color in their palette, the overall dark and gritty image they portrayed drew me in immediately.
but it wasn’t all aesthetics. in the late 90s and early 00s, the buccaneers were prided on their defensive capabilities. throwing a perfect spiral and making a leaping catch weren’t interesting to me, so it was amazing to see a team wreck the folks making those sorts of plays with agility and sheer force of will. as i started to get bigger, maybe something in me was drawn to the fact these gigantic players, some of whom reached as large as 300 pounds, were able to get around on their feet with such deftness.
anyways, none of that is what this article is about. what i want to talk about are the team’s early history and the uniforms that preceded those described above.
when the buccaneers entered the league as an expansion team (basically a team for a city that’s never had one before, an effort to give local fans someone they can get behind and call their own) in 1976, they were fucking garbage. just absolutely abysmal in every sense of the word. The new team lost 26 games, including the entirety of their first season, before edging out an opponent. it wasn’t until the detroit lions went 0-16 in 2008 that this bucs squad lost the honor of being called the least-winning team in the history of the league, and that was only by virtue of modern football seasons being longer than those of the past. the coach of the first team they beat, the new orleans saints’ hank stram, was fired at the end of the season.
not only were they completely awful, but they also outfitted themselves in what were likely one of the worst nfl uniforms ever, a sickly combination of white and orange that reminded folks of those disgusting creamsicle monstrosities aunts always try to push on you during the summer. while this was offset by one of the greatest nfl logos ever, the damage was already done.
now, i didn’t know any of this when i proudly proclaimed to my family that i was a buccaneers fan so many years ago. that’s why, when they laughed their asses off, i had no idea what was going on. was it wrong to laugh at a child about something they were so happy about? that’s a discussion for another time, but i totally understand what made them lose their shit.
it’s a cool thing to look back on in retrospect. there’s this underlying history to the buccaneers that i had no inkling of at the time but now constitutes a large part of why they continue to be an endearing organization, at least to me. they started out as garbage looking like garbage; fast forward over forty years, and they are still garbage with slightly “better” uniforms. while they’ve won one super bowl (the culmination of the nfl season that crowns each year’s champion), tampa is a perennial underdog, continually on the verge of a respectable squad but never quite reaching even average levels of skill. they are an underdog without a hint of scrappiness, a morsel of attitude, a glimmer of hope.
and that’s great. during my adolescence, i was obsessed with everything i enjoyed being “the best.” the bands i listened to were the best around, the books i enjoyed couldn’t be beat, the video games i played had no peers. but as i’ve grown older, that’s become less and less important in my life. “oh, you don’t like the movie i like? that’s fine.” i’ve turned into someone who can admit, with a straight face, that my favorites are garbage.
die antwoord? a garbage musical act that i can’t get enough of.
resident evil 5? a garbage game that i’ve beaten more times than i remember.
every installment of paranormal activity after the first one? absolute, complete, and utter fucking garbage that i will spend my hard-earned money to see in theaters every freaking year.
tampa bay’s buccaneers started out as garbage, got some shine in the early 00s, and are now garbage again, a parabola that i am totally fine exists. i couldn’t have been happier the day they won the super bowl and i couldn’t be happier to watch them wallow in the quagmire of single-digit wins. from creamsicle jerseys to terrifying ghost ships that shoot off fake cannons every time they score a touchdown, the buccaneers have and will likely always be garbage.
of course, this state of mind isn’t without its personal applications. as a quasi-writer, the need (or immense pressure) to pump out content on a regular basis pushes my anxiety to the brink. is this good? can i change a word here? should i omit this paragraph? freed from the idea that everything should be “perfect,” what i’m left with is the overwhelming urge to simply create, and let my creations thrive.
garbage is beautiful. there is quality in imperfection. kiss the broken.