The Jury Talks Back


No champagne for Tampa Bay as Detroit marches toward infamy

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 12:59 pm

The 1972 Miami Dolphins compiled a 17-0 record en route to victory in Super Bowl VII — becoming the only team in NFL history to go undefeated, including post-season games.  In later years, the Miami teammates developed what has become a well-known tradition during each NFL season.  They celebrate with champagne when the last undefeated team loses, thus preserving their unique status.  In most years, the bottles are opened by October, although sometimes they have to wait until early November.

The 72ers received special attention during New England‘s Super Bowl run last year.  The Patriots threatened to break Miami’s singular hold on perfection, posting a 16-0 record in the regular season, and adding two more victories during the playoffs.  Only the Super Bowl stood between New England and an historic mark of 19-0.  Alas, the drive toward a perfect season fell tantalizingly short.  The New York Giants defeated the Pats in Super Bowl XLII by a score of 17-14, scoring the winning touchdown with just 35 seconds left in the game.  Their record still intact, members of the 1972 Miami team breathed a collective sigh of relief — and then uncorked their champagne bottles.

This NFL season features another team with a shot at a ‘perfect season.’  However it’s not the type of achievement about which anybody would boast.  The 2008 Detroit Lions have lost their first 15 games.  Only a contest against Green Bay stands between Detroit and the first winless (and tie-less) NFL season since the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The shame on Detroit would be even worse than it was for Tampa Bay — for two reasons.  First, the season is two games longer than it was in 1976.  Just as no NFL team ever won 19 games, no NFL team has lost 16 games.  A record of 0-16 would eclipse Tampa Bay’s 0-14 mark of misery.  Second, the Bucs’ ineptitude was mitigated by the fact that Tampa was an expansion team playing its first season.  By contrast the Detroit Lions have been playing football since the beginning of time.

As the Lions march toward their date with infamy, obvious comparisons are being made.  While the ’76 Bucs have kept a low profile, one member of the team offered his perspective.

“It really doesn’t make any difference to me.  We will always be known as the first one.  That they will never take away from us, said [offensive lineman Tom] Alward, laughing.  “If this were to happen to them, they won’t have to worry about being alone.  We’ve been alone for a long time.”

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