1. Bucs

On-field play will determine success or failure of new Bucs uniforms

Running back Doug Martin models the Bucs' new white jersey.
Running back Doug Martin models the Bucs' new white jersey.
Published Mar. 4, 2014

When it comes to the spanking new threads of the Tampa Bay Bucs, you can at least take solace in this:

All in all, they are not as hard on the eyes as the old offense.

At least, not quite.

Wow. I cannot blink. I cannot see. I fear I have stared too long into the new uniforms of the Bucs, and all that remains are sunspots and streams of melted crayons. It is as if Walt Disney has sneezed, and colors are flashing everywhere.

Let's say this for the Buccaneers: They may have no idea how to rush the passer, but they lead the NFL in accessorizing. Let's see. There is the chrome facemask, and there are the pewter shoulders, and there is the orange piping, and there are the segmented numbers, and there is the oversized flag decal that tends to make a player's head look small, and there are the red splotches, and the flags on the hips and the ship on the shoulder. Yeah, there is a lot of busy to take in at once.

Look, I'm not exactly a fashion expert. Still, as uniforms go, these are not the classic look they wear on the runways — er, football fields — of Dallas or Pittsburgh or Green Bay. As uniforms go, you expect someone wearing one of these to try to land a triple Lutz.

I'm not sure, but it may be the first uniform in NFL history that comes with a mood ring.

On the other hand, they have carefully removed the footprints from the chest of the jersey front, so that is at least something. Also, the helmets are not dented anymore. That's a start.

The initial reaction to the uniform, it should be said, was not kind. You could sum it up like this: Yikes!

Fans acted as if the lead designer was Huggy Bear from the old Starsky & Hutch TV show. And let's face it: The Bucs' duds are better than most of the Halloween candy Nike has designed for college teams across the country over the past few years.

"Hey, Merv? Did you check out ESPN3? Maryland is wearing a Rorschach Test! I see butterflies!''

The Bucs uniforms, at least, are better than that. Still, the immediate reaction from some fans was to compare them to Arena League football or the old XFL or, for that matter, a video game. Or red Skittles, for that matter.

"It's been 17 years since we last did this,'' Bucs co-chairman Ed Glazer said. "Any change is going to be a little new to people. But once the fans get a chance to see it in person on the field, they're going to love it.''

The idea was to hit a reset button on the franchise with a new coach (Lovie Smith), a new general manager (Jason Licht) and hopefully a new direction.

Still, you cannot help but wonder how the Bucs will market this uniform. Personally, I envision Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and Doug Martin and Mike Glennon wearing the unis while walking through Ybor City to the sounds of Stayin' Alive.

Yeah, that ought to sell tickets .

The surprising part of the uniform change this time seems to be that almost no one was calling for it. Not the way they were in 1997, when the creamsicle orange represented everything evil in the history of this franchise.

Back then, you didn't have to stretch far to decide it was because of those uniforms that Bo Jackson didn't come, and it was because of them that Keith McCants did. It was because of the winking pirate on the helmet this team drafted Booker Reese, and let Doug Williams walk.

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In those days, Tampa Bay couldn't wait to change uniforms. You could have given the public a polka dot jersey, a paisley pair of pants and a red clown nose and it still would have made the deal.

In recent seasons, of course, the Bucs have fallen on hard times again. They haven't won a playoff game in 11 years, they've had losing seasons four of the past five and the other day, Ray Perkins stopped by to pick up his mail.

So you change coaches, and you coach quarterbacks, and you change general managers.

Eventually, you change uniforms.

Yeah, expect this to shake them up in Carolina, all right.

I kid, I kid. Except for the sudden jolt to the senses, we're talking about work clothes here. In time, I suppose we will all get used to the uniforms, and then we will go about judging whether those uniforms get to the end zone often enough.

And that's the thing. If the Bucs are good, the new uniforms will be the fashion hit of the fall season. Everyone will be wearing them. If they're bad, again, they'll just look funny as they come off the field. That has happened before.

Hey, there was a time that no one seemed that crazy about the Seahawks uniforms, either. But didn't they look just spiffy when they were bouncing around the field celebrating a Super Bowl win last month? That's the thing in sports. You can dress in big Donald Duck feathers, and if you win, no one will crack a joke.

So, yeah, this uniform will grow on you. Eventually, you'll buy a jersey, maybe two. Eventually, you'll buy a cap. Maybe a T-shirt.

Of course, if you're Craig Sager, you probably already have a sport coat that looks exactly like it.


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