Why this book? How did it come about?
“I’ve always been really intrigued by this team. About 20 years ago, when I first got in the business, had a chance encounter with O.J. Simpson at Giants Stadium. He basically said, ‘If you’re going to be in the NFL, cover the NFL, you need to know about this team. They’re one of the hardest teams I’ve ever played against.’ Over the years, I got to know a few of the players, got to know [Don] Shula, and I thought I’d always write a book about this team. Six books later, here we are.”
It sounds like you had trouble selling it. Why is the ’72 team underappreciated?
“There’s a couple of different layers. For one, while this team had some real good players on it, there was no real sexy, huge name. No Joe Montana, no Jerry Rice. When you look at this Dolphins team, what made them great is they weren’t sexy. They had talent all up and down the roster, but they were an everyman’s team. They didn’t have that big sexy star. That’s hurt them. Also, while I’ve never had a problem with them chirping when other teams fail, a lot of people do. People would just rip the [crap] out of them, thought they were cocky. They’ve developed some animosity.”
Well, at least were they appreciated at the time?
“I don’t think they were. I think they were well-known, I think they were popular, but in each of the three Super Bowls they were in, Sports Illustrated picked against them each time. They were always seen as this quirky little team of underdogs. I think things started to change after they beat the Vikings [in Super Bowl VIII], but they were never huge like the Steelers.”
What, in your mind, does the 1972 team mean?
“It means, basically, that we all have fallen down pitfalls, but you can pick yourself up and make yourself great. They lost that Super Bowl to Dallas, and it was an embarrassment, and the next year, they come back and go undefeated. To me, it’s a story about life, how you can fall on your face, and bring yourself back and succeed.”
The Dolphins are having a big blowout for the 40th anniversary. Is it strange the franchise still clings to it, four decades later?
“What the hell else are they going to cling to? There’s nothing else to look back on and say is great. The franchise has been horrible lately. What makes the Dolphins so unique is, the ’72 team really is the standard for the franchise. Sure, they’ve been to the Super Bowl, and lost. But since then, it’s been a disaster. If you’re that franchise and you don’t have much to celebrate, of course you look back.