The youngest are on Social Security. Many have turned 70. Others have passed away. The patriarch, Don Shula, is 82 now and doesn’t get around so well anymore.
The Perfectos are old men or getting there fast.
The best days of the Miami Dolphins are decades’ distant, feeling like yellowed photographs frozen in a dusty family album. When this franchise looks in the mirror it sees lined faces — gray ghosts — and another reminder came Wednesday.
No beleaguered Dolfan needs or wants reminding, of course, but this team keeps reminding its fans anyway.
How good it used to be.
And how it isn’t anymore.
The Dolphins gathered several members of Miami’s Perfect Season team at the club’s Davie headquarters Wednesday to reveal plans for a 40th anniversary celebration of the unblemished, still unmatched 17-0 Super Bowl championship of iconic 1972.
There were Bob Griese, Mercury Morris, Dick Anderson, Larry Little, Jim Kiick and others — all of them still perfect, as the commemorative hats will accurately, if immodestly, declare. The Dolphins have commissioned a documentary film about that team and season. A week’s events will culminate with an official recognition during the Dec.16 home game.
Can a celebration be both stirring and sad? This one might qualify.
What happened 40 years ago is worthy of perpetual respect and appreciation, sure. Don’t get me wrong on that. A celebration of some sort at five-year intervals is fitting, and surely none of what feels sad about this is the fault of the Perfectos. It’s just that praying to the deities Perfection and Past is bittersweet. No NFL franchise celebrates its past like this one, partly because it is worth celebrating — but dare I say mostly because nothing else has come along here to put the past in its place.
I asked Anderson after Wednesday’s event how tough it must be for these Dolphins to live in the 40-year shadow of Perfection.
“I would hope it might motivate them a little,” he said.
This is the burden of this franchise’s caretakers who have fallen short over the four decades since the halcyon days that we continue to desperately resuscitate.
This is a delicate balance for the club. It is proper and fine to worship past accomplishments to a point, but in this case that worship only underlines and magnifies how the club’s positive timeline has withered to a halt.
What would you think if you stopped for a bite to eat today and a certificate on the wall boasted of the place being named Best Restaurant of 1972? What-have-you-done-for-us-lately comes to mind.
Dolfans wait for new championships and new legends to make fresh memories, but instead we get the aging army of 1972, ever thinner, still marching stalwartly, carrying our flag because there is no one else.
We await a new grand marshal in a new parade, but the role is still cast to Shula, who serves it nobly, but for how much longer?
Heck, even the more recent franchise icon, Dan Marino, is 50 now, a spokesman for AARP no less! Next spring will mark the 30th anniversary of his being drafted. (Wonder if the Dolphins will celebrate that, too, and remind fans the club has not drafted anybody as good since.)
This is the broad challenge for the current regime, as the 2012 Dolphins prepare to play their first exhibition game Friday night here. These latter-day Dolphins are not just fighting opponents. They’re fighting ghosts. A big, bold sign in the team’s locker room today declares, ‘CHAMPIONS PRACTICE HERE.’