The NFL season has officially started, so it's time to finish the impassioned season previews from various writers, bloggers, diehard fans, cooks, TV personalities, and numerous other walks of life whom consider football the only sport worth watching. Clearly, these previews will be running until, oh, the first round of the wild card playoffs based on how quickly they've been coming in. So, for the next few days, expect a lot of these. Actually, let's see how many we can get out in one day. Today: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Your author is Josh Zerkle. Josh Zerkle is one of the weekend contributors here, and also does his thing on KSK and occasionally for With Leather. He lives in the Palmetto State, home of the most overrated rivalry in all of sports, Clemson vs. South Carolina.Only recently was I certain of how to spell Buccaneer (that's with two Cs and two Es), which might be all the blinding insight you'd need into a team that you'll probably never talk about, wager on, or even see on TV. But the NFL is one of those sports where if you follow one team, to some degree, you're following every team. So let's brush up on what makes this team relevant, both historically, and today. —The Bucs had American sport's first openly gay mascot.
Say bonjour to "Bruce," as he was affectionately called when the expansion Bucs began play in 1976. And to ensure that Tampa Bay would be remembered as the Mecca for man-love, their uniforms were Some people called him "faggoty" and "a bad influence on hetero children everywhere," but he was proud! And, sadly, when the Buccaneers updated their uniforms in 1997, poor Bruce suffered a miserable and undeserved fate. Rest in peace, Bruce.
Some speculate that the real reason Tampa Bay changed uniforms was to make way for the league's first openly gay team — the Dallas Cowboys. —The Buccaneers have a fucking pirate ship in their stadium!
Well, hang on. It's not a REAL pirate ship. It doesn't sail the stormy seas, it partakes in neither raping nor pillaging, and I'm quite certain that no timbers have been shivered to date. But it is 103 feet long, and the fake cannons on board fire when the home team scores. Still, it's not like the Cowboys have a replica of the Alamo in their new digs. That's because the Cowboys are neon-nightclub-flaming gay. — The Buccaneers have players and coaches with whom you're actually familiar.
They signed head coach Jon Gruden to an extension in the offseason. They signed 362 quarterbacks in 2007, but all of them combined were still cheaper than Donovan McNabb. Out of that fray emerged Jeff Garcia, who completed 64% of his passes in the 13 games that he played. And anyone playing fantasy football this year is by now familiar with the meteoric rise of Earnest Graham last season, with his 10 TDs in a 13-game span. Graham restructured his deal so that he received $1 million just for getting into camp. Oh, and his 2008 salary is guaranteed. Dexter Jackson, one of those speed demons coming out of Appalachian State, was taken by the Bucs in the second round of the draft, and he expects to contribute on offense and special teams right away. —The Bucs won their division last year; they're good!
They did shit the bed at home against the Giants in the wild card round last year. But, as you know, that Giants team ran the table for their third Super Bowl victory just weeks later. The meat and potatoes of this team has returned for 2008 (plus they got rid of Chris Simms! Fist pump!) and they'll look to repeat as division winners in a relatively weak NFC South. For many decades now, the state of Florida has been a haven for retirees looking to escape the unpleasant changing of seasons in the northern states. If you're a fan of one of the 29 teams that aren't located in the Sunshine State, or one of the other two that are, give this team some consideration for you time and attention. Or you can watch the Dallas Cowboys up until they buttfuck themselves out of the playoffs in January. Your call.