Bucco Bruce is in mourning

Fri, Jan 8
Greg Jennings and Sabby Piscatelli J. Meric/Getty ImagesBucco Bruce (at right, on helmet) made a reappearance for one game this season.

Bucco Bruce's father has died.

The Tampa Bay Bucs' logo character -- derided by many, loved by a few, well-known by all -- was designed by Tampa Tribune cartoonist Lamar Sparkman, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 88.

Whatever you thought of Bucco Bruce, he was the singular creation of a single person, much like Pat Patriot, who was designed by Boston Globe cartoonist Phil Bissell -- a far cry from more modern sports logos, most of which are created by corporate branding firms and are focus-grouped to death before finally being unveiled.

Ironically, Sparkman's original logo concept for the Bucs was reportedly a skull-and-crossbones design similar to what the team currently wears. But ownership rejected that proposal, so Sparkman went back to the drawing board and came up with Bucco Bruce, who instantly became the symbol of the franchise's early futility.

Bucco Bruce was retired in 1997 and became sort of a punch line in subsequent years -- a handy shorthand symbol of the team's pre-Tony Dungy struggles. That must have been a bit painful for Sparkman.

But everything can become the object of fond nostalgia if you wait long enough, even Bucco Bruce. He was revived this season for a throwback game, allowing Sparkman to see his creation on the field one more time.

In a fitting coincidence, the Bucs brought Bruce back just as the team had fallen back into the depths of the NFL's lower echelon. But the team did win that throwback game against the Packers, which had to have been extra-sweet for Sparkman. Bucco Bruce: undefeated in the 21st century.