In 1997, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sensing the need to shed their unsuccessful and turbulent past, decided to update and upgrade their uniforms.
After wearing Creamsicle and white for their first 21 seasons, the team changed courses and went with an edgier color scheme featuring pewter and red. The Buccaneers also replaced their cutesy, winking pirate logo lovingly known as Bucco Bruce with a more-menacing (and traditional) pirate displayed upon a partially torn flag.
Sure, the changes were drastic and took some getting used to, but let's not forget, they were long overdue.
When the Glazer family bought the franchise in 1995, they inherited an organization with dismal attendance, waning fan interest and less-than-ideal stadium facilities. If the purchase was going to pay dividends, the family knew changes were necessary.
In the 14 seasons prior to the logo and uniform changes in 1997, the team compiled a 64-159 record and had double-digit loss seasons in 13 of the 14 seasons, including 12 seasons in a row from 1983-94.
The Bucs and their Creamsicle uniforms had become synonymous with ineptitude and futility.
Fast forward to this offseason and the current logo and uniform change and there are some striking parallels between the two eras of Buccaneers football.
For one, attendance has been an ongoing issue for the better part of five seasons. Sure, some of it is the result of the Great Recession and people generally having less disposable income but, to a larger extent, it is the result of the team's lack of recent success.
The team hasn't been to the postseason in six seasons and, worse yet, in the 11 seasons since winning the Super Bowl in 2002, it has just two playoff berths and a combined record of 73-103.
In other words, there hasn't been much to be excited about or for fans to rally around.
After swinging and missing on both Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano—men who lacked any NFL head coaching experience—the Bucs decided to go the "safe" route and choose an experienced and (relatively) successful coach in Lovie Smith.
Smith, who is a disciple of former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy, takes over a team loaded with young talent, a top-10 draft choice and plenty of salary cap space to maneuver with.
Another interesting (and chilling) similarity: In the five seasons prior to the logo change in '97, the Bucs went 28-52; during the past five seasons (2009-13), their record is 29-51.
The new logo features a bolder hue of red and an enhanced pirate and flag while the new uniforms pay homage to their Creamsicle past (now referred to by the team as "Bay Orange") as well as incorporates the pewter and red so many fans came to grow fond of.
And while the reaction to the changes has been predictably and predominantly negative, it doesn't take away from the fact they were necessary.
Just as was the case in '97, the franchise needed a new direction and identity. The team has endured 11 seasons of pedestrian play and lackluster performances sandwiched between draft prospects it failed to develop or others it simply missed on.
Sure, the uniforms are bold and in-your-face and, for some, may illicit thoughts of arena football, but look at the bigger picture. That is, look at the symbolism that the changes represent. Look at the new duds as a team reborn, refocused and re-energized.
Not only that, but the last time they updated their look it turned the fortunes of the entire franchise around. The team went 10-6 and made its first trip to the playoffs in 15 seasons that first year. Oh, and they went on to become perennial contenders for the better part of a decade.
So, go ahead and take your shots at the alarm clock numbers and reflective edges all you want, but if all goes as planned and the Buccaneers can turn their fortunes around now just as they did the last time, you won't care how audacious they look if they're playing meaningful games in December and January.
Come to think of it, isn't that all that really matters?
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