Buccaneers AfterMath: The art of losing

Now that Tampa Bay’s 20th 11-loss season is in the books, let’s put the franchise’s half century of futility into perspective.
Jameis Winston has earned a passer rating of 120 or more in seven career starts. The Bucs have lost four of those, including Sunday's game against the Falcons. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Jameis Winston has earned a passer rating of 120 or more in seven career starts. The Bucs have lost four of those, including Sunday's game against the Falcons. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Jan. 1, 2019|Updated Jan. 1, 2019

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

The Buccaneers lost to the Falcons on Sunday. Not that it mattered. Tampa Bay had been eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago.

In fact, you might have pondered the benefits of a 5-11 record over a 6-10 record. A better draft pick can help dull the frustration.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

The 34-32 loss wasn’t anything that you hadn’t already seen a few hundred times — 423 times, to be exact. Sometimes they lose by a point; sometimes they lose by 40. Sometimes they squander a lead; sometimes they never have a chance.

The Bucs have been doing this for almost all of their existence, and at an incredible rate. Their .385 win percentage is the worst of any team in North American professional sports.

The biggest losers in baseball? The Padres (.461 win percentage). In basketball? The Timberwolves (.398 win percentage). In hockey? The Coyotes (.477 points percentage).

No one loses so beautifully. Consider:

• The Bucs have finished in last place eight times in the past decade, second to only the Browns (nine times). MLB’s Orioles have finished last five times. The NBA’s Pelicans and Timberwolves have finished last six times. The NHL’s Avalanche has finished last five times.

• The Bucs have missed the playoffs 11 straight seasons. Again, in the NFL only the Browns have fared worse (16 seasons). MLB’s Mariners haven’t qualified in 17 seasons, the longest active drought in North American professional sports. The NBA’s Kings haven’t qualified in 12 seasons. The NHL’s Hurricanes haven’t qualified in nine seasons.

• If you assume that the Bucs have a 63 percent chance of missing the playoffs in any given season (six of 16 teams in a conference qualify), the chances of them missing for 11 straight seasons are 0.57 percent.

• The Patriots have won at least 10 games in 16 straight seasons. In that span, the Bucs have won 10 games twice. In team history, they’ve won 10 games seven times.

• To get to a .500 win percentage, the Bucs would have to go unbeaten the next 10 seasons. To catch up to the Cowboys, who at .574 have the NFL’s best win percentage, they would have to go unbeaten another nine seasons.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

The Bucs have lost more than games, of course. They’ve lost great players, players who have gone on to enjoy success elsewhere.

Doug Williams. Bo Jackson. Steve Young. Matt Bryant. Michael Bennett.

They’ve groomed coaches, too, only to watch them lead other teams to the Super Bowl.

Tony Dungy. Lovie Smith. Mike Tomlin. Jim Caldwell. And possibly Sean McVay.

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They even brought one of those coaches back — Lovie Smith — just to fire him.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

The stadium is emptier these days. Attendance has fallen for three straight seasons — from an average of 61,600 in 2015 to 60,600 in 2016 to 60,000 in 2017 to 54,400 this season. And that’s just the announced attendance. The actual attendance is several thousands lower.

The home-field advantage that used to exist in the late 1990s and early 2000s? Gone. A sun-bleached “2002 world champions” sail on the stadium pirate ship is one of the few reminders left of the time when the Bucs owned Tampa Bay.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

You miss those moments, don’t you? John Lynch walloping receivers. Warren Sapp devouring quarterbacks. Mike Alstott barreling through defenses. Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber picking off passes.

Lynch and Sapp were the first to go. Then Alstott. Then Brooks. And, finally, Barber.

That’s what happens. Players come. Players go. Once those players left, though, so, too, did Tampa Bay’s devotion.

At least the Lightning has been there to fill the void.

— Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

And maybe that’s the toughest loss of all: the loss of a community.

Passages from Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.